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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 00:05 GMT
Health review could cut prison suicides
Prisoner in cell
Vulnerable prisoners need better protection
One in seven prisoners in western countries could have treatable psychiatric conditions which could be risk factors for suicide, according to a report.

The findings, published in The Lancet, have implications for the prison service and suggest a need to overhaul its mental health policies, say the authors.

About nine million people are imprisoned world-wide, but the number with serious mental disorders, psychosis, depression and anti-social personality disorders, is unknown.

The prison service definitely needs to do more to help people with mental health difficulties in prison

Howard League for Penal Reform spokeswoman
A team from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge looked at data from surveys on such disorders in general prison populations in 12 western countries.

About 4% of men had psychotic illnesses, 10% had major depression and 65% a personality disorder, including 47% with anti-social personality disorder.

About 4% of women had psychotic illnesses, 12% major depression and 42% a personality disorder, including 21% with anti-social personality disorder.

Prisoners were two to four times more likely to have psychosis and major depression and about 10 times more likely to have anti-social personality disorder, than the general population.

Counselling and support

Seena Fazel from the University of Oxford said: "Since a few million prisoners world-wide probably have serious mental disorders - including several hundreds of thousands with potentially treatable psychosis or depression - the ability of prison health services in some countries to address these problems may well require review."

This view is endorsed by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

A spokeswoman said: "Prison suicide is a big issue.

"Vulnerable people are not being protected.

"There are people who suffer from disorders like depression and personality disorders and these people need counselling and support.

"The prison service definitely needs to do more to help people with mental health difficulties in prison."

More than 70 people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales last year and eight people have killed themselves since the beginning of 2002.

See also:

12 Jul 98 | UK
Call to cut prison suicides
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