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Michigan State University Researches Treating Depression in Prison

man discusses depression with therapist

When someone has done something wrong that leads them to being in prison, prison staff may not be thinking too hard about the mental health of the prisoners in their building. But, what happens to those prisoners when they are released? Michigan State University did recent research about how treating depression within the prison walls will lead to successful improvement when prisoners are released. Health News Digest says that out of 4 million prisoners, 23% have suffered major depression and went without treatment during their sentence. When these prisoners are released, their mental health is in even worse shape than before. Michigan State University decided to train a team to do interpersonal therapy on 181 inmates to test its effectiveness within the prison. This team consisted of master’s and bachelor’s level mental health therapists as well as re-entry counselors. By using different levels of degrees, this could help prisons not have to hire a whole new team of therapists.  Interpersonal therapy is said to be very effective in that it addresses specific life events. This can be useful for inmates who have dealt with trauma such as abuse, assault, poverty, and drug-related situations. By going back in time to when a person began to feel these emotions, you can help people feel and express certain emotions and problem solve with how to better communicate or improve relationships. To keep this type of therapy in prison cost-effective, counselors worked in a group setting with prisoners twice a week for ten weeks. Inmates would set goals individually at the beginning of the trial and then see the lasting impact of the trial three months later.  Each inmate’s depression was assessed using the Hamilton Reading Scale for Depression which assesses symptoms like feeling gloomy, loss of interests in favorite activities, helplessness, suicidal, insomnia, appetite, weight, and energy scales. The results of this study proved that interpersonal therapy helped inmates reduce their depressive symptoms by helping them adjust to feeling hopeless as well as their PTSD symptoms. The cost for each patient was $2,054 which was towards training supervisors. Without the cost of training supervisors, it would only be $575 per inmate. With this study being the first towards an incarcerated population, the results proved to be a success. Studies like these show that the mental health of those in prison can change for the better once they are released to the real world.

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