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Suicide in prisons: describing trends and staff knowledge and preparedness to address suicide

Rebekah A. Freese (School of Social Work, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)
Kelli E. Canada (School of Social Work, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)
Pagena M. Nichols (St. Mary's Hospital, Jefferson City, Missouri, USA)
Brianna McNamara (School of Social Work, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 2 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

Suicide prevention and intervention in prisons is a challenge. Prisons were not designed to be clinical facilities, yet with the growing numbers of people who face mental health challenges in prisons, staff require knowledge and skills to adequately address mental health crises, especially suicide. This study aims to: describe trends in suicide attempts and completions within one state’s prison system and measure staff knowledge and preparedness to address suicide.

Design/methodology/approach

This research uses a nonexperimental research design and two data sources. Administrative data from 2000 to 2017 on serious suicide attempts and completions were analyzed, and all correctional staff employed in the state’s Department of Corrections were surveyed at one point in time. Univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted.

Findings

The number of serious suicide attempts trended up but completed suicides decreased. Correctional staff demonstrated high suicide knowledge of risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Staff who viewed a media-based suicide training displayed significantly more knowledge of suicide and perceived greater preparedness compared to staff who did not or did not recall viewing the training.

Originality/value

Corrections staff play a key role in preventing suicides in prison. Innovative intervention is needed to increase suicide awareness, improve communication and enhance prevention skills.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Declaration of interest statement: There are no conflicts of interest from any of the authors to report.

Citation

Freese, R.A., Canada, K.E., Nichols, P.M. and McNamara, B. (2022), "Suicide in prisons: describing trends and staff knowledge and preparedness to address suicide", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-02-2022-0011

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.

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