“Do You Want to Go Forward or Do You Want to Go Under?” Men’s Mental Health in and Out of Prison – 2018

More than 11 million people are currently imprisoned worldwide, with the vast majority of incarcerated individuals being male. Hypermasculine environments in prison are often tied to men’s health risks, and gathering information about mental health is fundamental to improving prison as well as community services. The purpose of the current study was to describe the connections between masculinities and men’s mental health among prisoners transitioning into and out of a Canadian federal correctional facility. Two focus groups were conducted with a total of 18 men who had recently been released from a federal correctional facility. The focus group interviews were analyzed to inductively derive patterns pertaining to men’s mental health challenges and resiliencies “on the inside” and “on the outside.” Participant’s challenges in prison related to heightened stresses associated with being incarcerated and the negative impact on preexisting mental illness including imposed changes to treatment regimens. Men’s resiliencies included relinquishing aggression and connecting to learn from other men “on the inside.” Mental health challenges “on the outside” included a lack of work skills and finances which increased the barriers that many men experienced when trying to access community-based mental health services. Mental health resiliencies employed by participants “on the outside” included self-monitoring and management to reduce negative thoughts, avoiding substance use and attaining adequate exercise and sleep. The current study findings offer practice and policy guidance to advance the well-being of this vulnerable subgroup of men in as well as out of prison.

John L. Oliffe, Debra Hanberg, Madeline N. Hannan-Leith, Cara Bergen, Ruth Elwood Martin
American Journal of Men’s Health, March 26, 2018