Worldwide, prisoners are at high risk of suicide. Research on near-lethal suicide attempts can provide important insights into risk and protective factors, and inform suicide prevention initiatives in prison.
To synthesize findings of research on near-lethal attempts in prisons, and consider their implications for suicide prevention policies and practice, in the context of other research in custody and other settings.
We searched two bibliographic indexes for studies in any language on near-lethal and severe self-harm in prisoners, supplemented by targeted searches over the period 2000–2014. We extracted information on risk factors descriptively. Data were not meta-analyzed owing to heterogeneity of samples and methods.
We identified eight studies reporting associations between prisoner near-lethal attempts and specific factors. The latter included historical, prison-related, and clinical factors, including psychiatric morbidity and comorbidity, trauma, social isolation, and bullying. These factors were also identified as important in prisoners’ own accounts of what may have contributed to their attempts (presented in four studies).