[Parasuicide and violence: criminological aspects from a study of 21,314 male army recruits in Switzerland].Encephale. 2003 Jan-Feb; 29(1):1-10.E
Suicidal behaviors are not uncommon, but rarely admitted in the families and in society at large. Violence is a public health and social problem of growing concern. Research on the relationship between violence and suicidal behaviors is scarce for the last decades, perhaps because suicide is no longer considered an offense. The present study is based on a sample of 21,314 valid interviews with 20 year old Swiss men, representing over 70% of this cohort. The questionnaire contained over 900 variables, addressing issues such as previous history of parasuicide, self-reported violent acts and injuries, during childhood and adolescence, as well as over the last year before recruits training. The questionnaire also contains various items about mental health, familial and social conditions and situational factors. We used an ordinal scale for measuring violence and operationalisations of mental disturbances according to theoretical and empirical concepts such as conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder according to DSM IV, the dissocial syndrome according to Rauchfleisch's (1981) definition; 2,6% of the recruits reported at least one suicide attempt during the last year, one third even multiple attempts. Life-time prevalence at age 20 was 3,9%. Suicide attempters often showed signs of psychiatric disorders, especially for a dissocial (OR=6,9) or an antisocial (OR=5,8) syndrome. Other studies have shown that the rate of suicide in France and Switzerland is very high compared to other European countries. Our study confirms the existence of a real behavioural and existential problem among young Swiss men. Half of the suicide attempters had a history of physical violence against others and 20% were themselves victims of violent acts during the previous year. Suicide attempters who were victims were also more violent than those who were not victimized. A suicide attempt during the previous year is a marker for violent behaviours (OR=2,1) and victimisation (OR=1,9) during this same year. We also found a positive link between multiple attempted suicides and the commission of serious violence. It is concluded that parasuicide among young men is related to other violent acts and should be considered as a positive marker of violent behavior in general and victimisation by crime. It seems that suicide is a transgression of social and cultural values because of the amount of aggression behind it, even if it is not a criminal offense. Suicide attempts of young men should receive more attention by professionals in the field of medicine, psychology and social work. Treatment of these men not only prevents an individual mental health problem but also contributes to crime prevention at the community level. Criminological theories could inspire further studies in suicidology, in order to improve the multidisciplinary knowledge of the phenomenology and etiology of parasuicide. In the same way, criminologists as policy makers should attach more attention to parasuicide given its many theoretical and practical connections with crime.