Trauma and Suicide Attempts among Insanity Acquittees.

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Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law


Although many studies have assessed trauma as a suicide risk factor, to the authors' knowledge this is the first study of that risk factor among forensic psychiatric populations. Using a cross-sectional self-report survey methodology, this study investigated trauma histories, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and lifetime suicide attempts among forensic hospital patients adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity ( n = 107). About 45 percent reported a previous suicide attempt and 22 percent reported multiple attempts, higher than the general population. The average number of attempts was 1.05 (2.39 among those with at least one attempt). The only PTSD symptoms significantly associated with attempting suicide were negative emotions and anhedonia, both in the cognitive/mood cluster, which was the only one of the four clusters to be significantly associated with attempting suicide. Childhood physical abuse was the only trauma significantly associated with attempting suicide. Higher number of attempts was significantly associated with ACEs (emotional neglect and abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and household members with substance-related problems), number of traumas, substance-related problems (especially from alcohol), arousal symptoms (excessive startle, inattention) and negative emotions. We found several statistically significant suicide risk factors, particularly ACEs. Possible explanations and implications of the results are discussed.


Online ahead of print.





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