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Effect of Social Support and Disclosure of Child Abuse on Adult Suicidal Ideation: Findings From a Population-Based Study

Philip Baiden, PhD; Barbara Fallon, PhD; and Kofi Antwi-Boasiako, MSW

Published: November 16, 2017

Article Abstract

Background: To examine the proportion of Canadian adults with a history of child abuse who disclosed the abuse to child protection services before age 16 years and identify the effect of social support and disclosure of child abuse on lifetime suicidal ideation.

Methods: Data for this study came from the Statistics Canada 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (N = 9,076). Binary logistic regression was conducted to identify the effect of social support and disclosure of child abuse on suicidal ideation while simultaneously adjusting for the effect of type of child abuse and demographic, socioeconomic, health, and mental health factors.

Results: Of the 9,076 respondents who experienced at least one child abuse event, 21.5% reported ever experiencing suicidal ideation. Fewer than 6% of the respondents disclosed the abuse to someone from a child protection service before age 16 years. In the multivariate logistic regression model, respondents who disclosed the abuse to someone from child protection services were 1.37 times more likely to report lifetime suicidal ideation (95% CI, 1.10-1.71) than those who did not. Each additional unit increase in social support decreased the odds of lifetime suicidal ideation by a factor of 3% (95% CI, 0.95-0.98).

Conclusions: Social support interventions that are effective in improving individuals’ perception that support is available to them may help reduce suicidal ideation among those with a history of child abuse.

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