An astounding 63% of people with a history of mental illness don’t get the help they need while incarcerated. Both state and federal prisons fall short when it comes to giving individuals the access they need for Mental Health care.
In addition, being in prison can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health, even if they don’t have a history of mental illness.
These startling facts about mental health and incarceration should open your eyes.
Up to 25 Percent of Inmates Have a Serious Mental Illness
According to the American Psychological Association, between 10% and 25% of incarcerated inmates have a more serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.
In addition, inmates may experience more depressive disorders, anxiety issues, and PTSD. For some, these issues may have been pre-existing, but for many others, the problems only started after their incarceration.
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Mood Disorders Often Go Unrecognized
Studies have found links between incarceration and mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.
There are several reasons why incarceration can have a toll on an inmate. For one, they’re no longer considered productive members of society. They may also experience a loss of purpose or feel their identities have been unfairly stripped away.
Unfortunately, mood disorders may go unrecognized and undiagnosed.
The Prison Environment Negatively Impacts Mood
Our surroundings play a big part in how we feel and how we connect with other people.
Neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania did a study on rats that were kept in darkness. The ones kept in the dark exhibited more depressive behavior.
Similarly, humans kept in dark and unpleasant conditions may be more likely to exhibit depressive behavior. Prison cells often lack natural light, are cramped, and are generally uncomfortable. This environment can take a toll on an individual, affecting their mental health.
Exposure to Violence Can Lead to Mental Health Issues
A recent study looked at the link between exposure to indirect violence and mental health. Many respondents that reported high exposure to indirect violence screened positive for outcomes such as PTSD and depression.
How does this affect mental health in prison?
Inmates are often exposed to both direct and indirect or structural violence. They might see fights break out, witness acts of violence between inmates or between an inmate and a guard.
They might feel vulnerable or afraid, or angry if they think they’re treated unfairly. These feelings can result in health issues.
Prisoners Can Be In Solitary Confinement for 23 Hours a Day
Solitary confinement is considered one of the worst punishments for prisoners. An inmate in solitary might be confined to their cell for 23 hours a day or more.
With no access to their peers or any meaningful interaction, many experience depression, anxiety, anger, and even hallucinations. Some inmates may only develop mental health conditions after being confined.
The Link Between Mental Health and Incarceration
There is a definite link between mental health and incarceration. The prison environment itself can affect an inmate’s mood, and many go without getting the treatment they need.
We’re still a long way from resolving issues like prison systems neglecting the mental health of prisoners. To learn more, delve into the problem further and check out some of our other informative articles.