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A 17-Year National Study of Prison Suicides in Belgium

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      Abstract

      Abstract. Background: Suicide is a leading cause of mortality in prisoners worldwide, yet empirical data on this matter are lacking in Belgium. Aims: This study sought to describe characteristics associated with a consecutive series of suicides in Belgian prisons from 2000 to 2016 inclusive, in order to inform suicide prevention strategies. Method: All documented cases of suicide (N = 262) were reviewed using a standardized assessment checklist. Official records were abstracted for prisoners' sociodemographic, criminological, and clinical information, as well as for suicide-related characteristics. Results: Over the 17-year study period, suicides accounted for one third of all deaths in Belgian prisons. The average annual suicide rate in Belgium from 2000 to 2016 was 156.2 per 100,000 prisoners. Examination of all cases highlights both individual (psychiatric disorders and a history of suicide attempt) and situational (the early period of incarceration, interfacility transfers, and placement in solitary confinement) factors common in many prison suicides; some of them amenable to (clinical) management, which presents several potential avenues for suicide prevention. Limitations: Given the absence of a matched control group, no conclusions could be ascertained regarding risk factors. Conclusion: Suicide is a common, preventable cause of death among prisoners in Belgium. The results underscore the timely need for national standards and guidelines for suicide prevention in Belgian prisons.

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      Most cited references 59

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      The health of prisoners.

      More than 10 million people are incarcerated worldwide; this number has increased by about a million in the past decade. Mental disorders and infectious diseases are more common in prisoners than in the general population. High rates of suicide within prison and increased mortality from all causes on release have been documented in many countries. The contribution of prisons to illness is unknown, although shortcomings in treatment and aftercare provision contribute to adverse outcomes. Research has highlighted that women, prisoners aged 55 years and older, and juveniles present with higher rates of many disorders than do other prisoners. The contribution of initiatives to improve the health of prisoners by reducing the burden of infectious and chronic diseases, suicide, other causes of premature mortality and violence, and counteracting the cycle of reoffending should be further examined. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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        The psychology of suicidal behaviour

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          Suicide and suicidal behaviour.

          Suicide is a complex public health problem of global importance. Suicidal behaviour differs between sexes, age groups, geographic regions, and sociopolitical settings, and variably associates with different risk factors, suggesting aetiological heterogeneity. Although there is no effective algorithm to predict suicide in clinical practice, improved recognition and understanding of clinical, psychological, sociological, and biological factors might help the detection of high-risk individuals and assist in treatment selection. Psychotherapeutic, pharmacological, or neuromodulatory treatments of mental disorders can often prevent suicidal behaviour; additionally, regular follow-up of people who attempt suicide by mental health services is key to prevent future suicidal behaviour.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [ 1 ]Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP), Faculty of Law and Criminology, Ghent University, Belgium
            [ 2 ]Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium
            Author notes
            Louis Favril, Ghent University, Campus Aula, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, louis.favril@ 123456ugent.be
            Contributors
            Journal
            cri
            Crisis
            The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
            Hogrefe Publishing
            0227-5910
            2151-2396
            July 27, 2018
            2019
            : 40
            : 1
            : 42-53
            cri_40_1_42
            10.1027/0227-5910/a000531
            Product
            Self URI (journal-page): https://econtent.hogrefe.com/loi/cri
            Categories
            Research Trends

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