a higher rate of suicide is associated with both low and high levels of education, but no significant relationship is found between suicide and I.Q.;
suicide does not correlate with sentence length;
those in the initial phase of imprisonment show the highest rate of suicide; and
hanging is consistently the most common method employed, followed by slashing and overdose (Task Force on Suicide in Canada, 1994; Conacher, 1993; National Task Force, 1987).

SUICIDAL BEHAVIOUR AND RISK FACTORS

Behaviour

Given what is supposed to be a lack of privacy and an inaccessibility of methods of committing suicide within the penitentiary environment, the persistence and comparatively high rate of suicide in jails and prisons has prompted increased efforts to develop a means of early identification of inmate suicidal behaviour. A previous psychiatric history (attempted suicide, depression, psychiatric treatment) can be a key factor in the cause of inmate suicide. In 1993-94, 7 of the 24 federal inmates who committed suicide were known to be depressed, 14 of the 24 were thought to have experienced hopelessness, 7 of the 24 were diagnosed as either psychotic or schizophrenic, 6 of the 24 had been diagnosed as suicidal currently or in the past, and half experienced suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts in the past (Laishes, 1994, p. 13-14). These numbers may vary slightly from year to year, but these elements are always present to some degree or another. These figures show that there is often inadequate intervention and treatment of inmate suicidal behaviour. Attempts at suicide and the expression of suicidal thoughts and intentions are the most common ways to identify potential suicides (Conacher, 1996, p. 74), and should thus be considered more seriously and with more care.

While researchers have devised theoretical profiles of "typical" inmate suicidal behaviour, the practical application of these profiles by corrections staff has revealed limitations. Corrections staff are unable to be provided with enough detailed information about the inmate and the particular characteristics of the prison environment to allow a consistent, pro-active prediction of suicidal behaviour. A profile alone, however accurate, will not provide corrections staff with a reliable method of distinguishing between suicidal and non-suicidal inmates. There must also be standardized reporting and communication of information about the inmate's history and proper training of corrections staff in the detection and intervention of suicidal behaviour. In order to accurately detect whether or not an inmate is suicidal, factors must be considered that range from the inmate's personal and social background to the effects of the institutional experience itself.


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