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Mental Health in Prisons

For the last decade particularly, we have been aware of a mental health issue in our prisons. We have also been aware of the link between poverty and low education to poor health outcomes across the board.

The World Health Organisation continues to identify

‘The most prevalent condition among people in prison was mental health disorders, which affected 32.8% of the prison population. This figure likely represents a significant underreporting as most noncommunicable diseases were poorly recorded and estimates were lower than expected. Fewer than half of the countries surveyed provided data. The most common cause of death in prisons was suicide, with a much higher rate than in the wider community’.

There is proportionately less spending per head on mental health in prisons than the general community even though most men and women in prisons have typically more than one health problem, have complex circumstances and a historic poor experience of mental health services. Issues with alcohol and drugs may have confused professionals in understanding the original causes of pain and distress in stories of multiple trauma and hardship. Neurodivergence is less likely to be assessed and diagnosed and in prisons where there are neurodivergence pathways of service, typical service offers are generic group work and/or medication. There simply is still not enough support nor are individual differences sufficiently accommodated in mental health services. When people return to the community, some services are delegated to the already struggling local government and health service sector. There are some amazing agencies out there working really hard with passionate staff but getting the system to prioritise continuity of care in this context challenges everyone.

At a time when access to clinical expertise is reducing as we move to social support based models in the community too, we need to ensure that expertise is retained in the sector for those people who need it most. We also need to ensure that we continue to collect the data of what works and why to ensure those who reside in prison or pass through it have the best chance of a healthier life and the rehabilitative services they need. Atrium Clinic is not ashamed to say that we recruit and train the best clinicians to the highest standard in psychological therapies because those that need it most, should have access to the most qualified people and excellence in mental health services.

In 2024 we will be continuing to work with all our partners to make the difference to the wellbeing of those we support who temporarily reside in prisons or whom have been released into the community to continue their access to rehabilitative services. Yep, it’s challenging but we are up for it. Happy new year to our partners and our forensic teams.

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642 London Road

Telephone: 01702-332857

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