Prison Suicide in Comparison to Suicide Events in Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals in Germany [2018]

Background: There is limited international as well as national research on suicide events in prisons and in forensic psychiatric hospitals. This retrospective study compares completed suicide events within these two high-risk populations in state institutions over a time period of 5 years from 2000 to 2004.

Material and Methods: Data was collected through a nationwide survey: all forensic psychiatric hospitals within Germany were contacted via postal mail and received a questionnaire concerning the suicide events from 2000 to 2004. All federal lands of Germany were similarly assessed by a survey endorsed by the respective federal ministries of justice. All prison institutions (100%) participated in the survey, while 84% (53 units) of the forensic psychiatric hospitals nationwide contributed. A comparative statistical analysis was conducted using Fisher’s exact test or the Mann-Whitney U-test (age). A multivariate logistic regression analysis was done to assess adjusted effects. For the Kaplan-Meier analysis, the months until suicide were analyzed followed by a Cox-regression analysis.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the mean suicide rate in forensic psychiatric hospitals (123/100.000, 95% confidence interval: [0.00103, 0.00147]) and in the prison system (130/100.000, 95% confidence interval: [0.00109, 0.00154]). Patients who committed suicide in the forensic hospitals were, in comparison to the prison system, more likely to have committed a violent offense and have had a prior history of suicide attempts. The duration from admission into the institution to the suicide event was significantly shorter in the prison group. Also, younger people commited suicide earlier during their stay in a forensic psychiatric hospital or prison.

Conclusions: While the results suggest a necessity to optimize data collection in the prison system (prior suicide events and history of mental disorder), it is important to discuss the current discharge arrangements within the forensic hospitals.

Alexander Voulgaris, Nadine Kose, Norbert Konrad and Annette Opitz-Welke

Frontiers in Psychiatry, 28 August 2018