Suicide of young people in prisons: what link with psychopathy

A recent study (Heirings et al., 2019) subjected 723 young inmates at the Missouri State Division of Youth Services (DYS) to an investigation into the relationship between psychopathic personological traits and suicide.

Advertisement Among the causes of death for teenagers Americans on suicide it is second only to automobile accidents (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). If the data on suicide risk is true for the youth population in general, this is even more pronounced within the circle of juvenile delinquency, becoming the leading cause of death among young people in prison (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2017) .

An explanation for the high suicide rate among young people with a tendency to carry out criminal behaviors lies in the presence of psychopathologies, often also linked to the use of narcotic substances. Among the personological aspects, the link that the psychopathy has with the suicidal risk is controversial: on the one hand, the deficits in the understanding of emotionsthe absence of reaction to stressful / anxiety-inducing stimuli and the limited empathy they seem to have a protective role against suicidal attitude; on the other hand, theimpulsivenessthe angerthe wish of handling and exploitation of the other would seem to constitute a risk factor (Boduszeket al., 2016; Perez et al., 2016; Shagufta et al., 2015).

Nevertheless, most of the scientific literature has focused on the topic above all by investigating the aspect from the point of view of the adult population.

To shed light on the issue among adolescents, a recent study (Heirings et al., 2019) subjected 723 young inmates at the Missouri State Division of Youth Services (DYS) to an investigation into the relationship between psychopathic personological traits and suicide. .

Suicidal ideation was measured using the Traumatic Experience subscale of the Massachusetts Youth Screening Inventory (MAYSI-2; Grisso et al., 2001); suicide attempts – if any – were indicated directly by the participants through a self-report (25.5% of them had actually attempted suicide).

The Psychopathic Personality Inventory – Short Form (PPI-SF; Lilienfeld & Hess, 2001) was used to measure psychopathic traits.

Advertisement The results found that psychopathy was a risk factor for both suicidal ideation and suicide attempts – although the latter association was less robust when the results were moderate to include the diagnosis of depression and the use of antidepressants. Furthermore, while some characteristics related to affectivity – such as emotional flattening and the absence of reaction to stressful / anxiety-inducing stimuli would seem to have a protective role against suicide, other behavioral and lifestyle components – including impulsivity , audacity, anti-conformism, blaming of others – have been found positively associated with suicidal ideation.

These results are consistent with those highlighted in the literature so far: psychopathy would in fact appear to be a personological dimension determined by the presence of two distinct psychopathological aspects where, to a colder and less affective dimension, a second more impulsive and destructive one corresponds: while the latter component would be associated with a higher suicidal risk, the former would seem to ensure a protective role (Boduszeket al., 2016; Perez et al., 2016; Shagufta et al., 2015).

The results of this research are useful not only to confirm the presence of a personological bifactoriality in psychopathy towards the propensity to suicide in a young population, but also for professionals who treat or supervise young people in detention and placement centers. residential, where suicide is the leading cause of death.

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Suicide of young people in prisons: what link with psychopathy