Associations between childhood abuse, mental health problems, and suicide risk among male prison populations in Spain [2018]

There are few studies exploring associations between different types of childhood abuse and mental health problems among adult prisoners.

To explore associations between history of childhood abuse, depression or anxiety, and near‐lethal suicide attempts among adult prisoners, and test the hypothesis that post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be a mediator between childhood abuse and adult disorder among prisoners.

We enrolled 943 men from three prisons in Spain. Childhood abuse was assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire at interview and current symptoms were assessed using the 21‐item Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS‐21). Self‐reported histories of near‐lethal suicide attempts were recorded.

Overall, 360 (40%) of the men reported at least one type of childhood abuse; 231 (24.5%) described exposure to emotional abuse, 236 (25%) to physical abuse, and 97 (10%) to sexual abuse. Survivors of all types of childhood abuse had over twice the prevalence of severe depression, anxiety, stress disorder, and near‐lethal suicide attempts than men who had not been exposed. Survivors of sexual and emotional violence during childhood had more symptoms of PTSD than survivors of physical abuse. Statistically, PTSD had a mediating effect, but it was very small.

Although other studies have shown high rates of childhood abuse histories among prisoners, this is the first to link such a history to near‐lethal suicide attempts in this population.

Francisco Caravaca Sánchez Yuriy Ignatyev Adrian P. Mundt
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Volume 29, Issue 1, February 2019