Prisoners who called Samaritans helpline up 60 percent during Covid pandemic in 'alarming' find

Prisoner calls to Samaritans has risen
Prisoner calls to Samaritans has risen

The number of prisoners who called the charity rose from 266,076 in 2019 to 424,509 in 2021

Published

The number of prisoners who called mental health helpline Samaritans jumped 60 percent in two years during the Covid-19 pandemic.

New figures obtained by the PA news agency show that calls to Samaritans’ dedicated prison line rose from 266,076 in 2019 to 329,799 in 2020, and again to 424,509 in 2021.

Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister Rosena Allin-Khan described the findings as “alarming”.

Ms Allin-Khan said: “These figures make for alarming reading – it is yet another example of even more people seeking help for mental health problems during the course of the last couple of years.

“Being imprisoned can exacerbate mental health difficulties and it is well known that for many minority groups, prison is the first place they will be diagnosed with a pre-existing mental health condition.

“The Government needs to act fast to get a grip on the growing mental health crisis. Only a Labour government will ensure the security of mental health treatment within a month, for all who need it,” she told PA.

Meanwhile, the director of external relations of Charity Mind, Sophie Corlett urged for a “significant increase in mental health support for people in prison”.

She added: “People in prison experience mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety or self-harm, at a much higher rate than society in general and it’s concerning to hear the huge increase in people who have needed to phone the Samaritans during the pandemic,” she said.

“We know the pandemic has had a huge impact on many of us, causing increased isolation and loneliness, and this has been even worse for those in prison where already mental health support is in short supply.

“For anyone experiencing deteriorating mental health, prison is a completely inappropriate setting. We need to see a significant increase in mental health support for people in prison.”

Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse hit out at Justic Secretary Dominic Raab, adding that he was “failing on all accounts at the moment”.

Ms Hobhouse said: “These figures are deeply worrying and work is urgently needed to help prisoners recover from mental health issues.

“Dominic Raab is failing on all accounts at the moment, with victims taking too long to see justice carried out and now these new concerns over prisoner welfare.

“Prisoners need more face-to-face time with mental health professionals and voluntary services. An urgent review must also be carried out on the potential long-term effects Covid restrictions have had on prisoners.

“A failure to act could lead to tragedies in our prisoners and hinder hopes of rehabilitation.”