Since 2012 Suicide or Survive has been providing Wellness Workshops and WRAP programmes for prisoners and staff in Wheatfield Place of Detention.
Many of the prisoners who have attended the Wellness Workshops in Wheatfield have reported thinking about their mental health for the first time at the Workshop and identifying with the personal stories of the Facilitators. However, many have also spoken of the macho culture in the prison and their reluctance to use services due to stigma and fear.
For this reason SOS started training a group of 8 prisoners in Wheatfield to become Mental Health Mentors in 2014. Their role is to provide support to other prisoners in using the Wellness Workbook and their learning from the WRAP programme as tools to manage their own mental health. The evaluation of this programme by Trinity College Dublin has commenced and will span the 2 year life of the project.
The mentor training aims to ensure that people in prison who are struggling with their mental health have support available to them on an ongoing basis so that they can take personal responsibility for monitoring and managing their own mental health. The mentoring focuses on supporting prisoners to use the simple but effective mental health maintenance tools they have learned through the Wellness Workshop and WRAP and on signposting them to the excellent professional services available in the prison as and when they need them.
Having other prisoners available who are respected among the prison population and who are talking openly about mental health has already proven effective in breaking stigma and encouraging people to avail of services and attend Wellness Workshops and WRAP programmes. The availability of peers who understand what it is like to be in prison, have experienced similar struggles with their mental health and have used the tools from the Workshop and WRAP provides accessible, user friendly support, breaks down stigma and provides a gateway to professional services both inside and outside the prison for those who need them.
The work of the Mentors and of SOS in the prison is actively promoted and supported by the Governor and his team and by the prison Chaplains.
The Mentor Training programme in Wheatfield Place of Detention is in line with Strategic Goals 1 and 2 of Connecting for Life: Goal 1: To improve the nation’s understanding of, and attitudes to, suicidal behaviour, mental health and wellbeing; Goal 2: To target approaches to reduce suicidal behaviour and improve mental health among priority groups. This programme is run to the highest standards of practice and service delivery and is underpinned by an evaluation framework as required by ‘Connecting for Life’.