Developing mental health awareness and help seeking in prison: a feasibility study of the State of Mind Sport programme

David Woods, Gerry Leavey, Rosie Meek, Gavin Breslin

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The high prevalence of mental illness within the prison population necessitates innovative mental health awareness provision. This feasibility study with 75 males (47 intervention; 28 control) evaluated State of Mind Sport, originally developed as a community based mental health and well-being initiative, in a notoriously challenging prison setting.

A mixed 2 (group) x 2 (time) factorial design was adopted. Questionnaires tested for effects on knowledge of mental health, intentions to seek help, well-being and resilience. For each outcome measure, main and interaction effects (F) were determined by separate mixed factors Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Two focus groups (N=15) further explored feasibility and were subjected to General Inductive Analysis.

A significant Group and Time interaction effect was shown for mental health knowledge, F(1, 72) = 4.92, p = 0.03, np2 = 0.06, showing a greater post-programme improvement in mental health knowledge score for the intervention group. Focus group analysis revealed an increase in hope, coping efficacy and intentions to engage more openly with other prisoners regarding personal well-being as a result of the SOMS programme. However, fear of stigmatisation by other inmates and a general lack of trust in others remained as barriers to help-seeking.

The implications of this study, the first to evaluate a sport-based mental health intervention in prison, are that a short intervention with low costs can increase prisoner knowledge of mental health, intentions to engage in available well-being opportunities and increase a sense of hope, at least in the short term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020

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