Suicide risk and mental health indicators: Do they differ by abuse and HIV status?

Andrea Carlson Gielen, Karen A. McDonnell, Patricia J. O'Campo, Jessica Griffin Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study examines the association between women's HIV serostatus, intimate partner violence (IPV) experience, and risk of suicide and other mental health indicators. Using data from Project WAVE (Women, AIDS, and the Violence Epidemic), we 1) describe the rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts, anxiety, and depression; 2) examine whether and to what extent these outcomes differ by women's HIV and IPV status. Methods: A one-time interview was conducted with a sample 611 women living in an urban area, one-half of whom were HIV-positive. Results: Having thought about suicide was reported by 31% of the sample and 16% reported having attempted suicide. Among HIV-positive women, thoughts of suicide occurred more frequently among those who were recently diagnosed. One-half of the sample reported problems with depression, and 26% reported problems with anxiety; of women reporting these problems, 56% received mental health treatment. Rates varied significantly by HIV and IPV status, with women who were both HIV-positive and abused consistently faring worse. Relative to HIV-negative nonabused women, HIV-positive abused women were 7.0 times as likely to report problems with depression, 4.9 times as likely to report problems with anxiety, 3.6 times as likely to have thought about suicide, and 12.5 times as likely to have ever attempted suicide. Our findings that abused HIV-negative women were also at significantly elevated risk for all of these outcomes lends support to the conclusion that it is the experience of abuse that is associated with the negative outcomes. Conclusions: Health care and service providers interacting with women who may be HIV-positive and/or in abusive relationships should routinely assess for mental health status, especially suicide risk, which may need crisis intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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