Although male prisoners are five times more likely to die by suicide than men of a similar age in the general population, the contribution of psychiatric disorders is not known.
To investigate the association of psychiatric disorders with near-lethal suicide attempts in male prisoners.
A matched case–control study of 60 male prisoners who made near-lethal suicide attempts (cases) and 60 prisoners who had never carried out near-lethal suicide attempts in prison (controls) was conducted. Psychiatric disorders were identified with the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI), and information on sociodemographic characteristics and criminal history was gathered using a semi-structured interview.
Psychiatric disorders were present in all cases and 62% of controls. Most current psychiatric disorders were associated with near-lethal suicide attempts, including major depression (odds ratio (OR) = 42.0, 95% CI 5.8–305), psychosis (OR = 15.0, 95% CI 2.0–113), anxiety disorders (OR = 6.0, 95% CI 2.3–15.5) and drug misuse (OR = 2.9, 95% CI 1.3–6.4). Lifetime psychiatric disorders associated with near-lethal attempts included recurrent depression and psychoses. Although cases were more likely than controls to meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder, the difference was not statistically significant. Comorbidity was also significantly more common among cases than controls for both current and lifetime disorders.
In male prisoners, psychiatric disorders, especially depression, psychosis, anxiety and drug misuse, are associated with near-lethal suicide attempts, and hence probably with suicide.