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Project tackles prisoners’ mental health problems

This news post is almost 9 years old

Three quarters of prisoners experience mental health issues but staff aren't trained to support them

A new campaign aims to address mental health issues among Scotland’s prison population.

Nearly three quarters of prisoners experience mental health issues, according to latest figures.

But many prison staff don’t have enough training or understanding to offer support.

Now See Me, the mental health anti-stigma charity, is launching a new collaboration with other groups in HMP Edinburgh, to allow staff to develop a deeper understanding of mental health and the stigma attached to it.

Seeing the Person, Seeing Ourselves is made up of a number of organisations, including Theatre Nemo, Positive Prison? Positive Futures, the Scottish Prison Service, prison staff as well as the men and women in HMP Edinburgh with lived experience of mental health conditions.

It is hoped the work will begin a process to remove mental health stigma in prisons to improve the support given to people, ultimately enabling them to return to the community better equipped for life without further offending and with improved mental health.

Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to receive fair treatment

Gordon Liddle, business development manager at Theatre Nemo, said: “This is a vitally important issue. Up to and over 70% of those in prison have mental health problems.

“We hope to be able to demonstrate that the work we are doing is effective and for it to be accepted as an integral part of Prison Officers’ training.

“If we can achieve that, we are confident that through time we will see more people progress their recovery whilst in prison and return to communities better able to support themselves and families and make good positive choices.”

Linda Dorward, acting deputy governor in HMP Edinburgh, said: “Working in partnership with Theatre Nemo and utilising the lived experience of those in our care to inform and develop training for prison staff has been a proactive and beneficial journey for the establishment.

“This enables HMP Edinburgh to deliver a person centred approach to mental health which improves staff awareness and establishment support for offenders, addressing individual needs from a holistic perspective”.

The project is part of a wider movement which is looking to bring people together all over the country to tackle mental health stigma.

Judith Robertson, See Me Programme Director, said: “Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to receive fair treatment if they are ill or distressed, no matter their circumstances.

“With such a high percentage of the prison population experiencing mental health problems there is clearly work that needs to be done to change this.

“We know that people with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as do those who have been in the criminal justice system. When combined, this could have a huge impact on a person’s ability to function in society.

“We are delighted to support this project and welcome the involvement of the Scottish Prison Service in joining us in improving mental health and tackling discrimination in a challenging area.”