All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Natalie Todak

Advisory Committee Members

Frances P Abderhalden

Lindsay Leban

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Science (MS) College of Arts and Sciences


The correctional work environment is detrimental to correctional officers’ (COs) health and wellness. While research shows that COs experience high rates of stress, PTSD, and other mental and physical health problems, relatively little research has examined the issue of CO suicide. The current study addresses this knowledge gap by drawing on a survey of COs from Washington state (N=420). Utilizing a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) framework, this study examines the prevalence of critical incidents (CIs), work stress, PTSD, and suicide ideation, estimates the degree to which exposure to CIs predicts suicide ideation, and assesses how work stress and PTSD moderate the association between CI exposure and suicide ideation. Findings underscore the devastating impact of the correctional work environment as COs in this sample had some of the highest rates of various health and wellness problems, such as suicide ideation (17%). While CIs are a driving force behind suicide ideation, this relationship manifests through their association with work stress and PTSD. However, observations indicate that additional forces contribute to the high rate of PTSD that extend beyond CIs. Overall, findings illustrate the need for additional mental health resources provided to COs and more empirical focus to better understand the traumatic impact of CIs and risk factors contributing to the high PTSD rates.



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