Integrating medical examiner and police report data: Can this improve our knowledge of the social circumstances surrounding suicide?
Ward, B.W., Shields, R.T., & Cramer, B.R.
Background: Recently, suicide in the United States has begun to be viewed as a preventable public health issue. This has led to the creation of a National Violent Death Reporting System that collects and integrates data on the social circumstances surrounding suicides. Aims: The study examines data on social circumstances surrounding suicides as collected by the medical examiner report (ME) and police report (PR) and subsequently integrated into the state of Maryland's violent death reporting system. Methods: Reported data on social circumstances surrounding suicides occurring in the years 2003-2006 in Maryland (n = 1,476) were analyzed by examining their prevalence in the ME and PR, strength of association, and integration. Results: With the exception of three circumstances, there was variation among reported circumstances in the ME and PR. Furthermore, there was only a moderately strong relationship between the ME and PR for most circumstances, while a significant increase occurred in the prevalence of these circumstances when ME and PR were integrated. Conclusions: The integration of ME and PR has the potential to increase our knowledge of the circumstances surrounding suicide and to better inform prevention efforts. However, before this potential can be reached, there are still issues that must be considered.