Implementation of a problem-solving training initiative to reduce self-harm in prisons: a qualitative perspective of prison staff, field researchers and prisoners at risk of self-harm [2019]

Social problem-solving is one technique used to help reduce incidence of self-harm. Our study evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of the adaptation and implementation of a brief Problem-Solving Training (PST) intervention to reduce self-harm in prisons.

The process involved i) adaptation of the training materials using focus groups with prison staff and prisoners, ii) training frontline prison staff to use the skills, and iii) implementation of the skills with prisoners at risk of self-harm. Qualitative interviews were conducted with prison staff, prisoners and field researchers and were analysed using a thematic framework to produce a model of the barriers and facilitators to the process.

We conducted 43 interviews across three prison sites. The interviews included 19 prison staff, 18 prisoners and six field researcher meetings. The adaptation to the training and intervention materials were well received. The findings identified the need to support training using a collaborative and flexible approach. Prisoner engagement was affected by their own personal circumstances and by a range of contextual issues relating to the prison environment. Implementation of the skills by prison staff were hindered by resource constraints, the prison environment and staff attitudes.

We found that it was feasible to adapt an existing intervention and contextualise it within the prison environment. Although we could train large numbers of staff it was deemed unfeasible for staff to implement the problem-solving skills to prisoners at risk of self-harm. Prisoners who engaged with the intervention reported a range of benefits. Alternative implementation mechanisms to tackle the contextual barriers proposed by staff and prisoners included delivery of the intervention using an educational setting and/or use of a prisoner peer-led scheme.

Amanda E. Perry, Mitch G. Waterman, Allan O. House & Joanne Greenhalgh
Health & Justice, volume 7, Article number: 14 (2019)