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> Depression & Suicide > Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement

Information About Youth Suicide Prevention for Law Enforcement Personnel
For in-depth information about this issue, read "Endangered Youth: A Report on Suicide Among Adolescents Involved with the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems." (download PDF)

The Problem
  • Between 2000 and 2005, suicide was the third leading cause of death of CT persons ages 10-14 and the second leading cause of death for ages 15-24.
  • Jails and juvenile facilities have high suicide rates. The rate of jail suicide is several times greater than in the general population.
  • Hanging oneself is the primary means of attempting/completing suicide in jail settings. The instruments commonly used for hanging by incarcerated persons include bedding and clothing (belts, shoes, laces, shirt, stockings, etc.)


Law Enforcement Personnel and Youth
  • Law enforcement personnel are key gatekeepers who regularly encounter individuals or families in distress.
  • The circumstance of confinement and personal history put incarcerated persons at greater risk for suicide.
  • Law enforcement professionals can make a difference in the life of a youth at risk for suicide by knowing the risk factors for suicide and seeking assistance.

Risk Factors
Stressful events, situations, and/or conditions are associated with greater potential for suicide and suicidal behavior. According to the Surgeon General, these include but are not limited to:
  • Alcohol/substance abuse
  • Mental health issues, such as depression and psychosis.
  • Traumatic event or loss – death or suicide of a loved one
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • Significant disappointment, humiliation or loss of status (e.g., break-up, or arrest)
  • Past suicide attempts
  • Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns

Potential Increased Risk/Critical Periods
  • Among adults, most suicides in jails are committed within the first 24 hours of incarceration.
  • Those housed in isolation and segregation
  • Many suicides occur during periods when staffing is likely to be lower (e.g., late evening through early morning).
  • During stressful periods (e.g., sentencing, family visits, court appearances)

Who is Most at Risk in Custody?
While any individual is potentially at risk for suicide, often those individuals who present unique challenges:
  • Have had a prior attempt,
  • Express suicidal thinking or intent,
  • Are agitated or difficult to control, or
  • Are under the influence of substances.

Recommendations for In Custody Suicide Crisis Intervention
  • Consult agency/jail policy regarding suicide prevention/intervention protocols, policies and resources.
  • Develop relationships with local hospitals, clinics, or universities to aid in officer training and policy development
  • Train staff in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), first aid, and suicide prevention annually.

Community-Based Resources
  • Family Member/Friend
  • Religious Leader
  • Teacher/Guidance Counselor
  • Suicide Hotline
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Current Clinician and/or Psychiatrist
  • Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (Child or Adult Mobile Crisis)
  • Emergency Room




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