Mental health, substance abuse, prison victimization and suicide attempts amongst incarcerated women

Francisco Caravaca-Sánchez, Tom J. Barry, Eva Aizpurua, Jorge Javier Ricarte

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Worldwide, incarcerated women are known to suffer adverse experiences that might increase the risk of suicide attempts during incarceration. The present investigation examines the prevalence of suicide attempts amongst incarcerated women in Spain and the factors associated with this. Between January and March of 2017 a total of 174 women, enrolled from two prisons in the southeast of Spain, completed anonymous self-report measures of demographic variables, penitentiary and sentence-related variables, mental distress (including depression, anxiety and stress), perceived social support, substance use (including alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, heroin and hallucinogens), prison victimization (property, verbal, physical and sexual victimization) and suicide attempts. Overall, 15.5 percent of women reported they had attempted suicide during their current incarceration. Compared with women who did not report suicide attempts, multivariate analysis showed that women reporting suicide attempts were more likely to report lower education levels, in-prison substance use, victimization and higher levels of mental distress. In order to prevent suicide amongst incarcerated women, victimization in all its forms, emotional distress and drug abuse in women with lower education levels, should be considered highly targetable variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-671
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
Early online date2 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


  • Prison
  • substance abuse
  • suicide attempts
  • victimization
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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