‘Preventing prison suicide: Staff perspectives’ is the fourth in a series of reports published jointly by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Centre for Mental Health as part of a joint programme aimed at saving lives in prison.
The report discusses the perspectives of staff working in prison, as well as those reviewing clinical care post suicide. It focuses on staff views on what contributes to vulnerability and suicide risk, and makes recommendations based on staff members’ views and their examples of promising practice.
The report surveys challenges faced by staff in supporting prisoners with mental health issues, including staff shortages, lack of staff training/awareness and staff wellbeing. It also gives an overview of exacerbating factors in the prison system such as prison culture, prisoner safety, the prison population and thresholds for mental health service referrals.
The report states that we need a profound culture shift in prisons from a primarily punitive approach to one centred around recovery, wellbeing and rehabilitation.
It also recommends a number of improvements based on the feedback of staff who participated in the research, including adopting a ‘stepped care’ approach, recognising key partners who provide informal counselling, investing in staff and ensuring robust and timely risk assessments for prisoners.