Mental health in prison urgently needs improving

Improving mental health care in Britain’s prisons must be a major priority for the NHS, a mental health charity has said.

The call came in response to a prison inspectorate report on Feltham young offender institution which found it was still failing to meet the needs of mentally ill young people. Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health chief executive Angela Greatley said the lack of appropriate treatment and support for people with mental health problems in prison was “a national scandal”.

The report revealed inmates who were on suicide watch being cared for by agency staff, many of whom did not have suitable training or qualifications, and who failed to engage with them at all.

Untrained staff were also found to be supervising mentally ill young offenders who were at risk of self-harm, and to be making them wear “degrading” strip-clothing. The report also said that staff used a high level of force, and that anti-bullying procedures and staff awareness were weak. Nearly one in three inmates said they had been victimised by another prisoner or a member of staff.

Greatley said: “Feltham is not alone in being unable to copy with the mental health needs of its inmates. We need to see a full range of mental health services available in prison. And we need to provide more alternatives to prison to prevent severely ill people being jailed in the first place and ensure those who become seriously ill in prison are transferred quickly to where they can be properly treated.”


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