Story You are eight years old. You have been beaten and humiliated by your stepfather for as long as you can remember. He has moved into your home, which is now a place of anxiety and fear. You feel isolated, frightened and angry.
You are ten years old. After a night of abuse from your stepfather you seek revenge by taking some of his cocaine from the kitchen side to sell in school. You have money in your pocket and an inflated status amongst your peers. This business opportunity works well until an over-excited sixth former tells the wrong person. You become known to the police.
You are thirteen years old. You have had six different social workers. 3 different stepdads and you have stayed with different family members because of the abuse, fear & vulnerability alongside a short spell in foster care when things got too much. Your criminal record is filling up with cautions and you have started taking the drugs you used to sell. Voices have begun sneaking into your head and encouraging you to do things that make you feel alive. Adrenaline coursing through your veins gets you through the day.
You are sixteen years old. Education has become a distant memory, if there ever was any. Weekdays are spent doing cash in hand work and body building, weekends are for drug and alcohol binges. You go to your mum’s house, and your stepfather verbally abuses you in front of your friends. The voices in your head are overwhelming, and a red mist descends. You take the car keys from the bowl by the front door and smash the car into a wall down the road.

You are seventeen years old. You go through all the confusion of being a teenager you are arrested in possession of a firearm and a large quantity of Class A drugs. The court gives you 8 years. You complete a degree during your sentence.
There are clearly evidenced “risk factors” that increase the likelihood of children and young people experiencing poor mental health. These include – communication difficulties, low self esteem, family disharmony, inconsistent boundaries and discipline, adults with mental health needs or substance misuse, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, parental criminality, death or loss, bullying, peer criminality, socio-economic disadvantage, homelessness, lack of access to correct support services, homelessness.

It is recorded that only 25% of children who need treatment for their mental health receive it, and that 50% of children with a lifetime condition (other than dementia) will experience symptoms by the age of 14. Young people in prison are also 18 x more likely to take their own lives than those not in a custody setting.
Conduct Disorders affect 5.8% of children between the ages of 5-16. The main factors increasing the likelihood of experiencing this disorder are being male and coming from a low income family.

Mental health in prison, let’s be clear. The term “mental health” refers to each and every one of us – we all have “good and/or poor” mental health in the same way we all have “good and/or poor” physical health during different times in our life. In my opinion our mental health is not a fixed state, it is a spectrum that changes based on a combination of biological, genetic, social and environmental factors. Simply put, it’s people that are emotionally damaged and very vulnerable and the idea is that people become mentally ill when the stress they face becomes more than they can cope with. People’s ability to deal with stress, and their vulnerability levels vary from person to person, therefore problems easily managed and resolved by one individual might be enough to cause another person to become extremely unwell. Like myself, I had cut my throat and wrists and I also jumped through a shop window, where I was hospitalised and sectioned for 6 weeks. it’s only for the speediness and the prodessionalism of a police officer and hospital Doctors that I did not die with the seriousness of my injuries at taking my own life on a main high st in London. Moreover, there have also been times in institutions where I have tried to take my own life.

70% of people who died from self-inflicted means whilst in prison had already been identified as having mental health needs. However, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) found that concerns about mental health problems had only been flagged on entry to the prison for just over half of these people.
The PPO’s investigation found that nearly one in five of those diagnosed with a mental health problem received no care from a mental health professional in prison.

The PPO also found that no mental health referral was made when it should have been in 29% of self-inflicted deaths where mental health needs had already been identified. 40% of prisons inspected in 2016–17 had inadequate or no training for prison officers to know when to refer a person for mental health support.

Surely even the basic training in Mental Health should be part of the nine week training of a prison officer. That’s right!!! nine (9) weeks of training to become a prison officer… FRIGHTENING I KNOW….


Add yours

  1. So so sad .but a true reality. Very brave as people dont understand just how hard it is to write their story and yes this is happening in BRITISH SOCIETY. PUNISHMENT FOR SYSTEM FAILURE.

  2. In my experience prisons are rife with mental health issues and the jail economy means medications are often sold for other resources. The Australian system does surprisingly well but mostly problems remain untreated. Well done helping get the story out there, if the public knew what the life of an average convict had been like they would be shocked and more sympathetic. Best wishes.


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