Emotional resilience sessions for prisoners will help prevent suicide, conference told

Providing the right support to prisoners at the right time is crucial to preventing suicide and self-harm in prison, the 19th Listener Scheme conference in Rugby heard on Saturday (28 October).

“We hope that the hard work, care and compassion is helping to save lives,” said Samaritans’ CEO Ruth Sutherland.

Referring to the statistics released by the Ministry of Justice earlier last week, she said: “Every life lost is one too many, but it is positive to see that numbers of self-inflicted deaths are significantly down on last year.”

The conference heard from Paul Holland, operational lead for suicide and self-harm reduction at HMPPS, who said they were implementing more suicide prevention training in prisons: “Samaritans do great work with the Listeners, training and supporting them.”

The conference, which was held at Newbold Revel near Rugby on Friday and Saturday (27 and 28 October), brought together former Listeners, Samaritans volunteers, prison staff, governors and HMPPS, the arm of the Ministry of Justice that runs prisons.

Samaritans and HMPPS jointly run the Listener scheme. There are now has more than 1550 Listeners in England and Wales, who provide peer support, in 112 prisons, and in 2016 they responded to more than 80,000 requests for help.

Research shows that prisoners are at increased risk of suicide, particularly during the first month in prison. Samaritans and HMPPS have developed emotional resilience sessions to help prisoners cope during their sentence.

The training, which is being delivered by people who have themselves served time in prison, is being piloted in two London prisons, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. It will help prisoners better understand their emotions, practice ways to cope with difficult situations, and know how to ask for help.

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah said: “I am grateful to Samaritans for their continued hard work in helping us to address the unacceptable levels of self- inflicted deaths and self-harm in our prisons.

“We take mental health and wellbeing of prisoners very seriously which is why I am pleased that, alongside the Listener scheme, we have this year been able to fund additional Samaritans’ schemes, including the suicide prevention learning tool for prison staff and emotional resilience training for prisoners in the early days of their custody.

“These are an important part of the wider work we are doing to improve the support available to prisoners at risk, especially during the first week in custody, and our refreshed suicide and self-harm prevention training – including mental health awareness – for prison officers.”

Samaritans’ Listener scheme began in 1991 in Swansea Prison, after the death of a 15-year-old. Listeners are supported and trained by volunteers from local Samaritans branches.

 

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Notes to editors:

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