Psychiatric morbidity is high in the prison population and prisoners with mental health problems present with complex needs. Working within the stressful prison environment and exposure to traumatic events may make prison mental health staff and correctional officers vulnerable to burnout, compassion fatigue, and reduced compassion satisfaction. This issue has not previously been explored in the prison setting. In this exploratory study, 36 mental health professionals and correctional officers were recruited from a prison in England and completed a series of questionnaires on their demographic and professional characteristics, exposure to traumatic events, support from managers and colleagues and on levels of burnout, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction. Staff had high levels of exposure to traumatic events and the level of support provided by managers and colleagues was mixed. The majority of staff were not at high risk of burnout, compassion fatigue and reduced compassion satisfaction but higher levels of burnout, compassion fatigue and reduced compassion satisfaction were found to be associated with a range of factors including staff characteristics, exposure to traumatic events, and working environment. These findings should be interpreted with the small sample size and limited power in mind and larger surveys of staff working in prison mental health settings are needed to confirm these results across a wider number of sites but nonetheless this study highlights the need for providers to consider staff’s exposure to traumatic events and to promote supportive working environments.
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