Suicidal Ideation in a U.S. Jail: Demographic and Psychiatric Correlates and a Test of Baumeister's Escape Theory




Schaefer, Karen

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The purpose of this dissertation project was to examine socio-demographic and psychiatric correlates of suicidal ideation (SI) upon incarceration, and predictors of the development/maintenance of SI in a U.S. jail sample. First, given that only one paper has examined the rate of SI in a jail sample (and only with males), the first study examined the prevalence of SI in a U.S. jail sample that includes both sexes. Additionally, it examined socio-demographic and psychiatric risk factors (psychiatric diagnosis and suicide attempt history) found to be associated with SI in prison and community populations, but not yet examined in jail samples. Participants were 511 jail inmates (68% male, 43% Black , 36% White, 10% Latino, 3% Asian, 4% "Mixed," 4% "Other", range 18-72, M = 32.19 years, SD = 10.05) serving greater than a 4-month term or being held on a felony charge at a suburban jail. SI was assessed using the suicidality scale of the Personality Assessment Inventory. Socio-demographic variables were assessed via participant self-report. Psychiatric history was assessed using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version. Approximately 16% of participants reported clinically significant SI upon incarceration. Participants who were White (vs. Black), reported a prior psychiatric diagnosis, and/or endorsed a suicide attempt history reported greater SI. Degree of SI did not differ by sex or age. Overall, results indicate that: 1) rates of clinically significant SI in U.S. jails are lower than that found in prison samples; and 2) White inmates and those with a significant psychiatric history (psychiatric diagnosis and/or suicide attempt) may be more likely to report SI upon incarceration in a U.S. jail. Given that SI is one the strongest predictors of future suicide attempts, thorough mental health screenings upon incarceration may help to identify inmates at risk for suicidal behavior during incarceration.



Psychology, Anxiety, Depression, Incarceration, Suicidal ideation