Birmingham, Luke, Coulson, Diane, Mullee, Mark, Kamal, Manzar and Gregoire, Alain
The mental health of women in prison mother and baby units
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 17, (3), . (doi:10.1080/14789940600738442).
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The aims of this study were to determine the social and demographic context, prevalence of mental disorder, and psychiatric treatment needs of women in prison mother and baby units in England. We conducted a survey of 55 mothers in the four prison mother and baby units in England, using semi-structured interviews, data from inmate medical records, and general practice records. More than half of the women were married or co-habiting and the vast majority had been living in their own homes prior to arrest. Many were from ethnic minorities and serving sentences for drug offences. In all, 60% had one or more of the five specific forms of mental disorder and a third were depressed. According to their inmate medical records, few were identified as having mental problems and only three were receiving any kind of treatment. Women in prison mother and baby units have particular characteristics that distinguish them from the rest of the female prison population. Admission criteria appear to select out women with psychiatric morbidity, child care problems, and other difficulties that may make them unsuitable for a mother and baby unit. The inmate medical records are a poor and unreliable source of mental health information and GP records provided no further information than the women themselves. Without treatment depression will impact on the mothers' ability to function effectively and it may have an adverse effect on the children's development.
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