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Association between a history of child abuse and suicidal ideation, plans and attempts among Canadian public safety personnel: a cross-sectional survey [2018]

Background: A history of child abuse has been identified as a risk factor for suicidal behaviour in general population samples; however, it remains unknown how a history of child abuse and career-related trauma together are related to suicidal behaviour. This cross-sectional survey was designed to 1) estimate the prevalence of a history of child abuse among Canadian public safety personnel, 2) examine the associations between child abuse and suicidal behaviour, 3) examine the associations between career-related trauma and suicidal behaviour and 4) examine the cumulative and interactive effects of child abuse and career-related trauma on suicidal behaviour.

Methods: Data were drawn from a Web-based survey collected by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment Team. Child abuse included physical abuse, sexual abuse and exposure to intimate partner violence in childhood. Suicidal behaviour included lifetime ideation, plans and attempt(s). We used logistic regression models to examine the associations between child abuse and suicidal behaviours, and cumulative and interaction models to test the relations between a history of child abuse and career-related trauma on suicidal behaviours.

Results: The survey completion rate was 49.3% (n = 4199). A total of 2275/4073 respondents (55.9%) reported experiencing 1 or more types of abuse as a child. All types of child abuse and career-related trauma were significantly associated with suicidal behaviour (adjusted odds ratio 1.57–3.25). No cumulative or interaction effects were noted.

Interpretation: Both a history of child abuse and career-related trauma were significantly associated with suicidal behaviours; however, stronger relations were seen for the former. This finding may help the development of effective treatment and intervention strategies aimed at reducing suicidal behaviour among public safety personnel.

Sarah Turner, MSc, Tamara Taillieu, MSc, R. Nicholas Carleton, PhD, Jitender Sareen, MD, Tracie O. Afifi, PhD
CMAJ Open, October 18, 2018
DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20170153
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