Elevated Prevalence of Suicide Attempts among Victims of Police Violence in the USA

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that police victimization is widespread in the USA and psychologically impactful. We hypothesized that civilian-reported police victimization, particularly assaultive victimization (i.e., physical/sexual), would be associated with a greater prevalence of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. Data were drawn from the Survey of Police-Public Encounters, a population-based survey of adults (N = 1615) residing in four US cities. Surveys assessed lifetime exposure to police victimization based on the World Health Organization domains of violence (i.e., physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect), using the Police Practices Inventory. Logistic regression models tested for associations between police victimization and (1) past 12-month suicide attempts and (2) past 12-month suicidal ideation, adjusted for demographic factors (i.e., gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, income), crime involvement, past intimate partner and sexual victimization exposure, and lifetime mental illness. Police victimization was associated with suicide attempts but not suicidal ideation in adjusted analyses. Specifically, odds of attempts were greatly increased for respondents reporting assaultive forms of victimization, including physical victimization (odds ratio = 4.5), physical victimization with a weapon (odds ratio = 10.7), and sexual victimization (odds ratio = 10.2). Assessing for police victimization and other violence exposures may be a useful component of suicide risk screening in urban US settings. Further, community-based efforts should be made to reduce the prevalence of exposure to police victimization.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. 1.

    Brucato B. The new transparency: police violence in the context of ubiquitous surveillance. Media Commun. 2015;3:39–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Cooper H, Moore L, Gruskin S, Krieger N. Characterizing perceived police violence: implications for public health. Am J Public Health. 2004;94:1109–18.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Geller A, Fagan J, Tyler T, Link BG. Aggressive policing and the mental health of young urban men. Am J Public Health. 2014;104:2321–7.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    DeVylder J, Oh H, Nam B, Sharpe T, Lehmann M, Link B. Prevalence, demographic variation and psychological correlates of exposure to police victimisation in four U.S. cities. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2016; doi:10.1017/S2045796016000810.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    American Public Health Association. Law enforcement violence as a public health issue. http://apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2016/12/09/law-enforcement-violence-as-a-public-health-issue. Accessed 21 Dec 2016.

  6. 6.

    McGuffin P, Marušič A, Farmer A. What can psychiatric genetics offer suicidology? Crisis. 2001;22:61–5.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    May AM, Klonsky ED. What distinguishes suicide attempters from suicide ideators? A meta-analysis of potential factors. Clin Psychol Sci Pract. 2016; doi:10.1111/cpsp.12136.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Simon TR, Anderson M, Thompson MP, Crosby A, Sacks JJ. Assault victimization and suicidal ideation or behavior within a national sample of US adults. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2002;32:42–50.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Wilcox HC, Storr CL, Breslau N. Posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts in a community sample of urban American young adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66:305–11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Stein DJ, Chiu WT, Hwang I, et al. Cross-national analysis of the associations between traumatic events and suicidal behavior: findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. PLoS. 2010;5:e10574.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Krug EG, Mercy JA, Dahlberg LL, Zwi AB. The world report on violence and health. Lancet. 2002;360:1083–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Ross CT. A multi-level Bayesian analysis of racial bias in police shoottings at the county-level in the United States, 2011-2014. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0141854.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Turner HA, Finkelhor D, Ormond R. The effect of lifetime victimization on the mental health of children and adolescents. Soc Sci Med. 2006;62:13–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Dobash RE, Dobash RP. Women, Violence and Social Change. Abingdon, UK: Routledge; 2003.

  15. 15.

    Van Orden KA, Witte TK, Cukrowicz KC, Braithwaite SR, Selby EA, Joiner Jr TE. The interpersonal theory of suicide. Psychol Rev. 2010;117:575–600.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Klonsky ED, May AM. The three-step theory (3ST): a new theory of suicide rooted in the “ideation-to-action” framework. Int J Cogn Therapy. 2015;8:114–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Hempstead KA, Phillips JA. Rising suicide among adults aged 40-64 years: the role of job and financial circumstances. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48:491–500.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Tiet QQ, Finney JW, Moos RH. Recent sexual abuse, physical abuse, and suicide attempts among male veterans seeking psychiatric treatment. Psychiatr Serv. 2006;57:107–13.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Turner CF, Ku L, Rogers SM, Lindberg LD, Pleck JH, Sonenstein FL. Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: increased reporting with computer survey technology. Science. 1998;280:867–73.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    DeVylder JE, Lukens EP, Link BG, Lieberman JA. Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adults with psychotic experiences: data from the collaborative psychiatric epidemiology surveys. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72:219–25.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Nock MK, Kessler RC. Prevalence of and risk factors for suicide attempts versus suicide gestures: analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey. J Abnorm Psychol. 2006;115:616–23.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Prenzler T, Porter L, Alpert GP. Reducing police use of force: case studies and prospects. Aggress Violent Behav. 2013;18:343–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    De Angelis J, Wolf B. Perceived accountability and public attitudes toward local police. Criminal Justice Stud. 2016;12:1–21.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Correll J, Park B, Judd CM, Wittenbrink B, Sadler MS, Keesee T. Across the thin blue line: police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007;92:1006–23.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Gelman A, Fagan J, Kiss A. An analysis of the New York City police department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy in the context of claims of racial bias. J Am Stat Assoc. 2012;102:813–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This study was supported by an intramural research grant from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (principal investigator: Jordan DeVylder). The funder had no role in the conduct of the study or dissemination of the results. Jordan DeVylder, University of Maryland School of Social Work, had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jordan E. DeVylder.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

DeVylder, J.E., Frey, J.J., Cogburn, C.D. et al. Elevated Prevalence of Suicide Attempts among Victims of Police Violence in the USA. J Urban Health 94, 629–636 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-017-0160-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Suicide
  • Violence
  • Aggression
  • Epidemiology
  • Sexual assault
  • Police abuse