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Using the K6 to Assess the Mental Health of Jailed Women

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 48 Issue: 4 Dated: May-June 2009 Pages: 296-313
Sheryl Pimlott Kubiak; Marisa L. Beeble; Deborah Bybee
Date Published
May 2009
18 pages
This study tested the validity and feasibility of using the K6, an easily administered and scored instrument, as a mental health screening tool for incarcerated women.
Findings revealed that the K6 demonstrated ease of use while maintaining high levels of concurrent validity when compared to other mental health instruments. Moreover, the K6 is sensitive to depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women without necessitating unique instruments for males and females. Approximately 36 percent of women within the jail were found to have a serious mental illness (SMI) as defined by the K6. Concurrent validity was high with a minimum of 79 percent concordance on depression, anxiety, and PTSD measures when comparing individuals that fell within the top quartile of symptom distress levels on each of these mental health measures. The K6 performed more strongly in determining more serious thresholds of the disorders, such as functional impairment, than just the presence or absence of meeting diagnostic criteria. Given the high proportion of individuals entering local jails with mental health disorders and the often hectic and overburdened processes taking place during intake, an easily administered and scored mental health screening measure that could be given to both men and women would be desirable. Future studies testing the reliability and validity of the K6 instrument among jailed men should be the next step in further assessing its utility. Data were collected from 515 women from the general population as well as the mental health unit of a large urban Midwestern county jail site. Tables, notes, and references