The Experiences of Service Providers in Supporting Women with Mental Disorders Who are or Have Been Incarcerated

Miss Gabriela Franich1

1Rmit University, COBURG, Australia

Gender, mental health and incarceration are all complex issues with a history of interaction. Studies with incarcerated women in the United Kingdom have shown that women entering prison are highly likely to have sought or received help for mental health problems. Victorian data from a 2015 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicated that 49% of prison entrants had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Of that 49%, 62% were female, representing a disproportionate level of diagnoses among women. Additionally, 45% of female prison entrants experienced a high level of psychological distress preceding entry to prison, compared to 29% of male entrants (AIHW, 2015). This issue is compounded by the fact that Victoria has seen a 138% increase in female prisoner numbers between 2008 and 2018 (Department of Justice – Corrections, 2019) meaning that there could be more women in custody in Victoria that require mental health care than ever before. Service providers working directly with women that are or have been in prison have a unique and valuable perspective regarding the practical aspects of supporting female offenders with mental health issues. This study aimed to explore the experiences of service providers in supporting women with mental disorders who are or have been incarcerated; and potential effects that being incarcerated might have on mental disorders. Data was gathered by means of in-depth interviews with service providers in the criminal justice sector, and it thematically analysed to identify the key issues presented by service providers. It is hoped that the findings from this study will contribute to the ongoing discussion about how best to support the rehabilitation of female offenders.


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