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Association between violence and mental distress, self-harm and suicidal ideation and attempts among young people in Malawi
  1. Andrés Villaveces1,
  2. Viswanathan Shankar2,
  3. Francisco Palomeque3,
  4. Mabel Padilla4,
  5. Howard Kress1
  1. 1Division of Violence Prevention, NCIPC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA
  3. 3State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Task Support Force, COVID-19 Emergency Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  4. 4Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrés Villaveces, Division of Violence Prevention, CDC, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA; avillaveces{at}cdc.gov

Abstract

Background Mental health problems ranging from depression to more severe acts such as self-harm or suicidal behaviours are a serious problem among adolescents and young adults. Exposure to violence during the life of young people can increase mental health issues for youth. This study examines the relationship between exposure to violence and mental health issues among youth using a nationally representative study in Malawi.

Methods We analysed data from the nationally representative Violence Against Children Survey from Malawi (2013) to quantify the association between exposures to violence (physical, sexual and emotional) and their relationship with mental distress, self-harm behaviours and suicidal ideation and attempts among youth aged 13–24 years. We evaluated the association of exposures to violence against children with reported mental health conditions among women and men. We used ordinal logistic regression models with appropriate survey weights to assess exposures to violence and the three outcomes of interest.

Results Children and youth aged 13–24 years exposed to violence in childhood reported higher levels of adverse mental health effects, including mental distress, self-harm behaviours and suicidal ideation and attempts. The odds of reporting these outcomes increased as the number of violence types increased.

Conclusions Understanding the risks based on different combinations of exposures to violence in Malawi can help identify populations at higher risk and optimise violence prevention strategies.

  • Child abuse
  • Suicide/Self?Harm
  • Surveys

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Violence Against Children Survey data are owned by the Government of Malawi and made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a Data Use Agreement or directly from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of the Republic of Malawi. Request for public use data sets are available through the Together for Girls website at: https://www.togetherforgirls.org/request-access-vacs/

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Violence Against Children Survey data are owned by the Government of Malawi and made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a Data Use Agreement or directly from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of the Republic of Malawi. Request for public use data sets are available through the Together for Girls website at: https://www.togetherforgirls.org/request-access-vacs/

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Footnotes

  • Contributors AV and SV contributed to the conception, design of the work, analysis and interpretation of data for the work. FP, MP and HK contributed to the conception and interpretation of data for the work. All authors contributed to drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; All authors give final approval of the version to be published and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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