Exploring the listener scheme in a women's prison: the importance of a gendered approach to peer support for women who self-harm in custody

Griffiths, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-6746-4593, Bailey, D. ORCID: 0000-0001-5823-7746 and Slade, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-7442-4805, 2020. Exploring the listener scheme in a women's prison: the importance of a gendered approach to peer support for women who self-harm in custody. Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 15 (6), pp. 347-360. ISSN 1755-6228

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Abstract

Purpose: Without exception, research on the contribution of the Prison Listener Scheme as a form of peer support for those who self-harm in custody has focussed on men in prison. Women’s experience of custody is shaped by their experiences of hegemonic masculinity that also mediate through women’s roles as mothers and caregivers. Women’s self-harm is similarly influenced by these gendered experiences. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the Listener Scheme as a form of peer-to-peer support for women contributes to women managing their self-harm in a female prison.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper used a case study design with a mixed-methods approach using a quantitative questionnaire with prison staff (n = 65) and women in custody who had self-harmed (n = 30). Qualitative methods included a focus group with Prison Listeners (n10) and semi-structured interviews with women who self-harm (n10) and prison staff (n10). Four days were also spent observing the prison environment.

Findings: Findings suggest that women seek support from other women as peer Listeners for three main reasons; their previous difficult experiences with men, a displacement of the mother role and their attachment needs in custody. Research suggests that women often have significant addictions and mental health concerns and are more likely than their male counterparts to engage in self-harm (Prison Reform Trust, 2017). In addition, women’s self-harm acts as a coping method for "intrapersonal issues" which documents self-harm as a result of frustration and lack of control in custody as opposed to “interpersonal issues” which documents self-harm as a result of relationship difficulties with partners (Walker et al., 2017). This paper suggests that peer support schemes internationally should be tailored to providing support for these types of gendered experience to support women who self-harm in custody. This has implications for the training and support of Listeners in women’s prisons.

Research limitations/implications: This exploratory research was conducted in one female prison and while can be considered to test proof of concept is limited in its generalisability.

Originality/value: This paper suggests that Listeners providing peer-to-peer support for women in custody who self-harm may encounter triggers for this behaviour based on women’s experiences including; how women relate to men; women’s experience of the way custody displaces their role as mothers and women’s need for safe attachments in custody. These gendered experiences have implications for the training and development of peer support schemes in women’s prisons, such as the Listener scheme. Further research is needed to compare the gendered types of support Prison Listeners provide depending on whether they are in male or female prisons.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Creators: Griffiths, L., Bailey, D. and Slade, K.
Publisher: Emerald
Date: 28 October 2020
Volume: 15
Number: 6
ISSN: 1755-6228
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1108/jmhtep-01-2020-0004DOI
1370023Other
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 04 Dec 2020 11:32
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2020 11:32
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/41770

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