University of Limerick
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Women's experiences of prison-based mental healthcare: w systematic review of qualitative literature

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-28, 12:53 authored by Ann-Marie Bright, Agnes Higgins, Annmarie Grealish
Purpose – The rate of female committals to prison has grown rapidly in recent years. Women in prison are likely to have trauma histories and difficulties with their mental health. This paper aims to synthesise the findings of qualitative literature to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of women in the context of prison-based mental health care. Design/methodology/approach – A systematic search of five academic databases, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Psychological Information Database (PsycINFO), Excerpta Medica DataBASE (EMBASE) and Medline, was completed in December 2020. This study’s search strategy identified 4,615 citations, and seven studies were included for review. Thomas and Harden’s (2008) framework for thematic synthesis was used to analyse data. Quality appraisal was conducted using the Joanna Briggs Institute Checklist for Qualitative Research (Lockwood et al., 2015). Findings – Four analytic themes were identified that detail women’s experiences of prison-based mental health care: the type of services accessed and challenges encountered; a reduction in capacity to self manage mental well-being; the erosion of privacy and dignity; and strained relationships with prison staff. There is a paucity of research conducted with women in the context of prison-based mental health care. The findings suggest there is a need for greater mental health support, including the need to enhance relationships between women and prison staff to promote positive mental health. Originality/value – To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first systematic review conducted on the experiences of women in the context of prison-based mental health care. Keywords Mental health, Women prisoners, Prison, Service provision, Qualitative synthesis, Women’s experiences.



International Journal of Prisoner Health;


Emerald Publishing Ltd





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