Center on Sentencing and Corrections

The role of loneliness in prison suicide prevention and management

The role of loneliness in prison suicide prevention and management

Samantha Brown and Andrew Day, “The role of loneliness in prison suicide prevention and management,” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 47, no. 4 (2008), 433–449. 

 This study examines the positive relationship between loneliness and levels of depression, hopelessness, and indicators of suicidal behavior for incarcerated people. Sixty participants in a South Australian remand facility self-reported their degree of loneliness, their measure of depression, hopelessness, and indicators for self-harm or suicide, their perception of social support received from friends, family, and significant others, and demographic characteristics.  

Results from this study show that those that spend less than 24 weeks in custody reported the highest levels of loneliness and that loneliness is positively correlated with higher levels of depression, hopelessness, and suicide indicators. The study further reveals that participants with high levels of loneliness reported lower levels of social support than those with low levels of loneliness. Those in the High Lonely group indicated ‘family’ as their highest form of support as opposed to the Low Lonely group that indicated ‘family’ as the least utilized source of support.  

These findings indicate that preventing suicide and self-harm in prisons must include a screening assessment of all inhabitants that records individuals’ stressors such as loneliness, depression, and hopelessness, as well as changes in social support. The study notes that loneliness is a factor that can be most directly alleviated through increased recreation and programming in prisons, which may have a strong impact on suicide prevention. In addition, it is essential for correctional facilities to help incarcerated people maintain their existing sources of support while on remand, particularly from family members and significant others. These recommendations would help prevent incarcerated people from experiencing psychological distress and other indicators of self-harm or suicide. 

Click here to read the study. 

Keywords: remand, pre-trial, jail depression, hopelessness, suicide, suicidal ideation, loneliness, support, familial support, support systems, Australia