Mental health is a large problem in the United States and those issues extend to every aspect of our country, including the prison system. According to a 2017 report from the United States Department of Justice, around 37% of inmates have a history of mental health problems, as well as more than 24% having been previously diagnosed with major depressive disorder, 17% with bipolar disorder, 13% with a personality disorder and finally 12% with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of these inmates get locked up when in reality, we should be looking into how we can treat these people and get to the root of the problem. Because so many inmates struggle with mental health issues, many psychiatrists, social workers, and the like have become integral health care providers in prisons around the country, doing what they can to drive home how important it is that these inmates get the help they need so they can be released back out into society and continue living their lives. Here are a few ways psychologists are tackling the mental health crisis within the United States prison system.

Changing Correctional Policies

One issue with mental health in the prison system is solitary confinement. Solitary confinement can be a common solution within prisons for dangerous inmates or inmates who have gotten themselves in trouble while in the system. Many of them also suffer from mental illness and being put into isolation can have a direct impact on that. Research has shown that solitary confinement can lead to or amplify various mental health problems such as difficulty concentrating, anger, or experiencing depression. That same research points out how the want for social interaction with other humans hurts, and inmates instead learn to cope in a world without others, only making matters worse. It’s important that this type of treatment towards inmates is reformed if we ever want them to truly recover and be able to enter society without getting placed into a correctional facility again.

Alternative Solutions To Hospitalization

When an inmate displays various mental health disabilities they may be placed in a state hospital in order to properly serve their mental health needs in ways a standard prison may not be able to handle. The problem is that many of these hospitals are overcrowded and not able to always help as much as they aim to. Some psychologists have looked into using community-based treatment as an alternative. Research has found that outpatient programs work nearly as well as inpatient programs, and can help lessen the burden on hospitals as well. Having those community support systems in place can help make recovery much smoother than being stuck in a hospital. 

For more information, visit New Horizon Counseling Center’s website.