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Developing the Mental Health Awareness of Prison Staff in England and Wales

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Health Care Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2009 Pages: 302-309
Elizabeth Walsh, Ph.D., M.Sc., R.G.N.; Dawn Freshwater, Ph.D., R.G.N., R.N.T., FRCN
Date Published
October 2009
8 pages
This study examined the mental health of the prisoner population and the training needs of staff caring for them in the United Kingdom.
Findings show that where a prisoner population with a high incidence of mental health issues is rising to unprecedented levels, the need for high levels of mental health awareness for those working directly with prisoners on a daily basis is desperately needed. Feedback from staff that completed the program described here demonstrates the value placed on this type of training by those working in a prison setting. Feedback from program participants suggest that its success is rooted in the practice of prison-based content of its modules; the relaxed, interactive, and varied methods of delivery by an experienced, professionally credible facilitator; and the way in which participants were encouraged to draw on their own experiences to support their learning. Findings suggest that educators and professional practice developers note the importance of moving away from tradition didactic training delivered by trainers and embrace an experiential approach to learning where the experiences of participants are key to the learning of the whole group. This approach may have significant resource implications; however, the value of using experience to embed theoretical perspectives cannot be underestimated. With current policy advocating the use of mental health in-reach teams working in the residential areas to address the mental health needs of prisoners, the further development of mental health knowledge among officers and support for inter-professionals working alongside in-reach team staff is crucial to the provision of high-quality care for prisoners. Table and references