Barriers to accessing psychological treatment for medium to high risk male young offenders [2020]

Within the young offender population, rates of personality disorder and mood disorders are considerably higher than both the general and adult offender population. Despite this high level of need and high risk of harm, psychological services within prisons are widely underutilized. Little is known about the barriers to accessing treatment for young offenders. This study investigated barriers to accessing psychological treatment for male young offenders detained in a UK prison. There were 128 participants, aged 18–21. A cross-sectional design compared self-reported barriers and psychological distress for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and White young offenders not accessing treatment, as well as those who were. A preference for self-reliance, a lack of trust in the prison system, lengthy waiting times and a general reluctance to talk about emotions were the most commonly cited barriers. BME young offenders not engaged in treatment reported significantly more barriers to accessing treatment than BME young offenders who were engaged in treatment, but both BME groups had equal levels of psychological distress. There was no significant difference between BME and White young offenders in the number of barriers reported, including stigma barriers. Future research should evaluate interventions to increase access for this marginalised population.

Katherine McGrath, Jake Shaw & Lorna Farquharson
The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, Volume 31, 2020 – Issue 4