The Investigation of Suicide in Malta

  • Manuel Camilleri

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Suicide is a complex human behaviour and a public health problem that is not inevitable but preventable. The study of suicide has always been geared into gaining insight and knowledge of the subject with the primary purpose of improving prevention capabilities. This study aimed to provide an overview of the nature and characteristics of suicide in Malta by examining police reports of all the 359 recorded cases of suicide within the fifteen-year period between 2003 and 2017 and to provide the police with a practical data collection tool for use in future suicide investigations.

A review of literature regarding the risk and protective factors and other variables which might affect suicide was made prior to the review of the police reports. These were classified into four categories: demographic variables including gender, ethnicity, ties to family and friends, employment, education, skills and physical disabilities and ailments; variables related to history of suicide and mental illness including if the person attempted suicide before, if any family member or close friends ever attempted or died by suicide or suffered from mental health illness like depression and bi-polar disorder; variables related to suicidal behaviour including self-harm, ideation, desire to attempt suicide,
planning for suicide, having a favourable attitude and attraction to death and preparing for actual suicide; and life events which affect a person significantly including child abuse, trauma or loss of function, financial difficulties, loss of employment, marriage or a significant relationship breakdown, loss of child custody, death of a loved one, life threatening illnesses, legal or criminal problems or other actions that significantly mark a person for life.

Data have shown that 87.2% of suicides were males, with the highest percentage aged between 46 and 60 years. The rate of suicide in the region of Gozo is lower than in the region of Malta and the difference is statistically significant. In the region of Malta, the mean rate of suicide is higher in the Northern Harbour district when compared to the other districts. Hanging was the most common method of suicide with just over half of the recorded suicides. A gender difference was however noted as jumping off heights was noted to be the commonest method of suicide for females. A slight increase in the rate of suicide was noted in March and August reflecting two peaks in suicide numbers in spring and summer. The home was the chosen location of suicide for most suicides followed by garages. The bastions were the preferred location for persons choosing to jump to death, especially in the Southern Harbour district where most of the bastions are located. Persons from the Northern District who died by jumping tended to do so from the Mosta bridge, located in the same district.

It was noted that the police collected about 30% of the data listed in the content analysis in the literature review. Although some differences between police districts were observed, this could not be empirically tested due to low frequency of annotation. To facilitate a more thorough collection of relevant data pertaining to suicide in police
investigations, a standardised data collection tool based on the review of literature and the 359 police reports was developed.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusanna Kola-Palmer (Main Supervisor)

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