Posted on: 23 March 2020

CNWL has developed four self-help workbooks for people in prison and detention as part of a concerted plan to improve people’s experience in custody, to increase access to therapeutic support and to reduce distress and levels of self-harm and suicide across the prison estate.

CNWL provides healthcare across a diverse range of prisons and detention centres, ranging from HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes to HMP Winchester in Hampshire as well as prisons in Kent and in Surrey and the Immigration Removal Centre at Heathrow.

Each has received copies of these practical workbooks, which are an extra resource for those in custody or detention, over and above the existing healthcare support.  

The four, produced by a group of people currently in custody in collaboration with our Offender Care psychologists are called:

They support and deepen an ongoing programme of suicide prevention work through CNWL’s Offender Care suicide prevention strategy. 

This strategy was unveiled in June 2018 and included nine pledges towards reducing the numbers of self-inflicted deaths across our prisons. This is bearing fruit; self-inflicted deaths across our prisons have reduced by over half from 2018.

Project lead Dr Sarah Allen said: “We know that people often struggle to cope whilst in custody as they are removed from many more usual coping strategies and resources.

“How many of us would cope well with being locked up away from friends, families and pets without the ability to go for a walk or a glass of wine when things feel too much?

“Many of the people we work with have experienced very difficult and traumatic pasts which further impact on their coping.

“As part of our overall health and well-being provision and contributing to our suicide prevention strategy we wanted to do more to support those we work with and these books provide information about the difficulties people might experience and give some practical ideas of things which might help.

“Statistics tell us that around 76% of people on remand, and 63% of those serving custodial sentences experience anxiety and/or depression. This is in comparison to around 20% of the general public.

 “Given that this has been a genuinely co-produced piece of work we are confident the workbooks will be useful to those we want to reach. We are trying to ensure there is help available at all times for those who need it, from these self-help workbooks, contact with our mental health staff, through to groups and individual therapy. No one should be struggling alone in custody.”

Service Director Phil Bolland said: “Caring is paramount and we do not judge  and over the past few years we have been determined to improve the services we offer to this population and to work towards improving mental health outcomes and preventing suicides in custodial settings.

“This led to last year’s suicide prevention strategy, which has informed this piece of work and which is bearing fruit. 

“However, we know that as a healthcare provider we should be looking to go further; we know that talking therapy services, for example, can only go so far.

“We wanted to provide the detained population access to the same resources as someone in the community has so an easy-to-read and understand series of self-help workbooks seemed to us to be the best way forward and I thank Dr Allen for leading on this piece of work.”

CNWL Chief Executive Claire Murdoch said: “This is an excellent co-produced piece of work that adheres to our values of caring not judging. And that is what we do, day-in-and day-out, in providing excellent levels of care.

“We want those who read these manuals to understand what they may be experiencing and to work through these emotions with our help.”