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Suicide attempts and self-mutilative behavior in a juvenile correctional facility.

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Brown University Medical School, Providence, RI, USA.



To determine the lifetime history of suicide attempts in incarcerated youths and psychological factors related to suicidal and self-mutilative behaviors during incarceration.


A 25% systematic random sample chart review of adolescents admitted to a juvenile correctional facility yielded a sample of 289 adolescents. Seventy-eight of these adolescents were clinically referred for psychiatric assessment. Suicidal behavior was assessed with the Spectrum of Suicidal Behavior Scale and self-mutilation with the Functional Assessment of Self-Mutilation.


Of the 289 adolescents, 12.4% reported a prior suicide attempt. Almost 60% of these attempts were made using violent methods (e.g., cutting). Of the 78 clinically referred subjects, 30% reported suicidal ideation/behavior and 30% reported self-mutilative behavior while incarcerated. Suicidal clinically referred adolescents reported more depression, anxiety, and anger than nonsuicidal youths. Adolescents who reported self-mutilative behavior had higher anxiety, anger, and substance use than non-self-mutilative adolescents.


Results suggest that incarcerated adolescents have higher rates of suicide attempts and use more violent methods of attempt than adolescents in the general population. Furthermore, incarcerated clinically referred suicidal and self-mutilative youths report more severe affective symptoms than their nonsuicidal and non-self-mutilative counterparts, suggesting a need for mental health treatment.

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