American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 34, Issue 1–2, pp 41–53 | Cite as

Suicide in Police Work: Exploring Potential Contributing Influences

  • John M. Violanti
  • Desta Fekedulegn
  • Luenda E. Charles
  • Michael E. Andrew
  • Tara A. Hartley
  • Anna Mnatsakanova
  • Cecil M. Burchfiel
Article

Abstract

Police officers are considered at increased risk for suicide. The objective of this study was to explore potential influences on suicide ideation among 105 randomly selected men and women urban police officers. Depression, gender, and marital status appeared to be most strongly associated with police suicidal ideation. Depressive symptoms were higher among women than men officers (12.5 percent vs. 6.2 percent). For each standard deviation increase in depressive symptoms, the prevalence ratio (PR) of suicide ideation increased 73 percent in women (PR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.32–2.27) and 67 percent in men (PR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.21–2.30). The association between depression and ideation was stronger among unmarried women officers (PR = 4.43; 95% CI = 2.19 – 8.91) than married women officers (PR = 1.39, 95% CI = 1.09 – 1.79). While depression has previously been associated with suicide, such results are unusual in a healthy working population such as the police.

Keywords

Police Suicide Depression Gender Occupational stress 

References

  1. Beck, A. T., & Steer, R. A. (1993). Beck scale for suicide ideation manual pp. 7–8. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  2. Berg, A. M., Hem, E., Lau, B., Loeb, M., & Ekeberg, O. (2003). Suicidal ideation and attempts in Norwegian police. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 33, 302–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonger, B. M. (1991). The suicidal patient: Clinical and legal standards of care pp. 1–25. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Casey, P., Dunn, G., Kelly, B., Birkbeck, G., Dalgard, O., Lehtinen, V., Britta, S., Ayuso-Mateos, J., Dowrick, C., & ODIN Group (2006). Factors associated with suicidal ideation in the general population: five-centre analysis from the ODIN study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 189, 410–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Charbonneau, F. (2000). Suicide among the police in Quebec. Population, 55, 367–378.Google Scholar
  6. Claasen, C. A., Trivedi, M. H., Rush, A. J., Husain, M. M., Zisook, S., Young, E., Leuchter, A., Wisniewski, S. R., Balasubramani, G. K., & Alpert, J. (2007). Clinical differences among depressed patients with and without a history of suicide attempts: Findings from the STAR*D trial. Journal of Affect Disorders, 97, 77–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crosby, A. E., Cheltenham, M. P., & Sacks, J. J. (1999). Incidence of suicidal ideation and behavior in the United States, 1994. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 29, 131–140.Google Scholar
  8. Crosby, A. E., & Sacks, J. J. (2002). Exposure to suicide: Incidence and association with suicide ideation and behavior: United States, 1994. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 32, 321–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Darensburg, T., Andrew, M. E., Hartley, T., Burchfeil, C. M., Fekedulegn, D., & Violanti, J. M. (2006). Gender and ages differences in posttraumatic stress disorder and depression among Buffalo police officers. Traumatology, 12, 200–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DiFilippo, J., & Overholser, J. (2000). Suicidal ideation in adolescent psychiatric in-patients as associated with depression and attachment relationships. Journal of Clinical and Child Psychology, 29, 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dumais, A., Lesage, A. D., Alda, M., Rouleau, G., Dumont, M., Chawky, N., Roy, N., Mann, J. J., Benkelfat, C., & Turecki, G. (2005). Risk factors for suicide completion in major depression: A case-control study of impulsive and aggressive behaviors in men. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 2116–2124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fawcett, J., Clark, D. C., & Bush, K. A. (1993). Assessing and treating the patient at risk for suicide. Psychology Annals, 23, 244–256.Google Scholar
  13. Gershon, R. R., Lin, S., & Li, X. (2002). Work stress in aging police officers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 44, 160–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gili-Planas, M., Roca-Bennasar, M., Ferrer-Perez, V., & Bernardo-Arroyo, M. (2001). Suicidal ideation, psychiatric disorder, and medical illness in a community epidemiological study. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 31, 207–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Green, B. L., Lindy, J. D., Grace, M. C., & Gleser, G. C. (1989). Multiple diagnosis in posttraumatic stress disorder. The role of war stressors. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders, 177, 329–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hartley, T., Violanti, J. M., Fekedulgen, D., Andrew, M. E., & Burchfiel, C. (2007). Associations between major life events, traumatic incidents and depression among Buffalo police officers. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 9, 25–35.Google Scholar
  17. Hartwig, D., & Violanti, J. M. (1999). Suicide of police officials in Northern-Westfalen.An evaluation of 58 suicides between 1992–1998. Archiv Fur Kriminologue, 5(6), 129–142.Google Scholar
  18. Hem, E., Berg, A. M., & Ekeberg, A. O. (2001). Suicide in police: A critical review. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 31, 224–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jacobs, D. (1989). Evaluation and care of suicidal behavior in emergency settings. In D. Jacobs, H. Brown, & D. Madison (Eds.), Suicide: understanding and responding (pp. 60–72). Connecticut: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  20. Joiner Jr, T. E., & Rudd, M. D. (1995). Negative attributional style for interpersonal events and the occurrence of severe interpersonal disruptions as predictors of self-reported suicide ideation. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 25, 297–304.Google Scholar
  21. Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kessler, R. C., Borges, G., & Walters, E. (1999). Prevalence of and risk factors for lifetime suicide attempts in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 56, 617–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kposowa, J. (1999). Suicide mortality in the United States: Differentials by industrial and occupational groups. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 36, 645–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Li, C. Y., & Sung, F. C. (1999). A Review of the Healthy Worker Effect in Occupational Epidemiology. Occupational Medicine, 49, 225–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lynch, T., Johnson, C. S., Mendelson, T., Robins, C. J., Ranga, K., Krishnan, R., & Blazer, D. G. (1999). Correlates of suicide ideation among an elderly depressed sample. Journal of Affective Disorders, 56, 9–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lyon, M. E., Benoit, M., O’Donnell, R. M., Getson, P. R., Silber, T., & Walsh, T. (2000). Assessing African-American adolescents risk for suicide attempts. Adolescence, 35, 121–134.Google Scholar
  27. Maris, R. W. (1981). Pathways to suicide: A survey of self-destructive behaviors pp. 519–550. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  28. Maris, R. W., Berman, A. L., & Silverman, M. M. (2000). Comprehensive textbook of suicidology pp. 222–228. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Marttunen, M. J., Aro, H. M., Henriksson, M. M., & Lonnqvist, J. K. (1991). Mental disorders in adolescent suicide. DSM-III-R axes I and II diagnoses in suicides among 13- to 19-year olds in Finland. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 834–839.Google Scholar
  30. Marzuk, P. M., Nock, M. K., Leon, A. C., Portera, L., & Tardiff, K. (2002). Suicide among New York City police officers, 1977–1996. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 2069–2071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McDowell, I., & Newell, C. (1996). Measuring health: A guide to rating scales and questionnaires (pp. 10–25, 2nd edn.). New York, NY: Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  32. Molnar, B., Shade, S., Kral, A., Booth, R., & Watters, J. (1998). Suicidal behavior and sexual/physical abuse among street youth. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 213–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morash, M., & Haarr, R. N. (1995). Gender, workplace problems, and stress in policing. Justice Quarterly, 12, 113–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Morgan, H., & Stanton, R. (1997). Suicide among psychiatric inpatients in a changing clinical scene: Suicidal ideation as a paramount index of short term risk. British Journal of Psychiatry, 171, 561–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nisbet, P. A. (1996). Protective factors for suicidal black females. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 26, 325–341.Google Scholar
  36. Nugent, W. R., & Willams, M. (2001). The relationship between the comorbidity of depression with problems in psychosocial functioning and the severity of suicidal ideation. Social Services Review, December, 582–604.Google Scholar
  37. Oquendo, M., Ellis, S., Greenwald, S., Malone, K., Weissman, M., & Mann, J. (2001). Ethnic and sex differences in suicide rates relative to major depression in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 1652–1658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oquendo, M. A., Bongiovi-Garcia, M. E., Galfalvy, H., Goldberg, P. H., Grunebaum, M. F., Burke, A. K., & Mann, J. J. (2007). Sex differences in clinical predictors of suicidal acts after major depression: a prospective study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 134–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Patterson, G. T. (2003). Examining the effects of coping and social support on work and life stress among police officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, 215–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pierino, K. (2007). Women in the police department: the impact of being a token in a male-dominated organization. Doctoral dissertation: State University of NY at Buffalo, NY, May, 2007Google Scholar
  41. Qin, P., Agerbo, E., & Mortensen, P. (2003). Suicide risk in relation to socioeconomic, demographic, psychiatric, and familial factors: A national register-based study of all suicides in Denmark, 1981–1997. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 765–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale. A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychometric Measures, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rothman, S., & Strijdom, S. (2002). Suicide ideation in the South African Police Services in the North West province. South African Journal of Industrial Psychology, 28, 44–48.Google Scholar
  44. Rudd, M. D., Dahm, P. F., & Rajab, M. H. (1993). Diagnostic comorbidity in persons with suicidal ideation and behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 928–934.Google Scholar
  45. Simon, T. R., Anderson, M., Thompson, M. P., Crosby, A., & Sacks, J. J. (2002). Assault victimization and suicidal ideation or behavior within a national sample of U.S. adults. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 32, 42–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Spiegelman, D., & Hertzmark, E. (2005). Easy SAS calculations for risk or prevalence ratios and difference. American Journal of Epidemiology, 162, 199–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Storosum, J. G., van Zwieten, B. J., van den Brink, W., Gersons, B. P., & Broekmans, A. W. (2001). Suicide risk in placebo-controlled studies of major depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 1271–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vena, J. E., Violanti, J. M., & Feidler, R. (1986). Mortality of police cohort. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 10, 383–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Violanti, J. M. (1996). Police suicide: Epidemic in blue. Springfiled, Ill: Charles C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  50. Violanti, J. M. (2004). Predictors of police suicide ideation. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 4, 277–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Violanti, J. M., Castellano, C., O’Rourke, J., & Paton, D. (2006). Proximity to the 9/11 terrorist attack and suicide ideation in police officers. Traumatology, 12, 248–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Violanti, J. M., Vena, J. E., & Petralia, S. (1998). Mortality of a police cohort: 1950–1990. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 33, 366–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Violanti, J. M., Vena, J. E., & Marshall, J. R. (1986). Disease and mortality among police officers. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 14, 17–23.Google Scholar
  54. Weissman, M. M., Bland, R. C., Canino, G. J., & Faravelli, C. (1996). Cross-national epidemiology of major depression and bipolar disorder. JAMA, 276, 293–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wulsin, L. R., Evans, J. C., Vasan, R. S., Murabito, J. M., Kelley-Hayes, M., & Benjamin, E. J. (2005). Depressive symptoms, coronary heart disease, and overall mortality in the Framingham Heart Study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67, 697–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wunderlich, U., Bronisch, T., Wittchen, H.-U., & Carter, R. (2001). Gender differences in adolescents and young adults with suicidal behavior. Acta Psychiatra Scandinavian, 104, 332–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Young, A. S., Neuchterlein, K. H., Mintz, J., Ventura, J., Gitlin, M., & Liberman, R. P. (1998). Suicide ideation and suicide attempts in recent-onset schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 24, 629–634.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Violanti
    • 1
  • Desta Fekedulegn
    • 2
  • Luenda E. Charles
    • 2
  • Michael E. Andrew
    • 2
  • Tara A. Hartley
    • 2
  • Anna Mnatsakanova
    • 2
  • Cecil M. Burchfiel
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health & Health ProfessionsState University of NY at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Biostatistics and Epidemiology Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMorgantownUSA

Personalised recommendations