Prison staff look after mental health by keeping fit

A prison in Buckinghamshire has supported its staff as part National Mental Health Awareness Week where the theme has been ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’.

Physical Education Instructors (PEIs) at HMP Grendon have run activities for staff in the prison gym each day, such as circuits, team sports, and even a parkrun.  Chloe Moore, 22 (pictured), a prison officer there, said:  “This is a tough and busy job. It can be 100 miles an hour, and that’s why it’s so important we take care of our own mental wellbeing.  At HMP Grendon, prisoners are encouraged to talk openly about past experiences as part of their therapeutic work, and this could become overwhelming for staff if not appropriately managed. Specialist prison officers are actively involved in the delivery of therapy to prisoners alongside other professionals, where they can be exposed to sensitive and potentially distressing information.”

She added: “Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for the staff to reflect on day-to-day responsibilities, talk to volunteers and colleagues, and see what support services are available.  Our Care team are available for staff to speak to about any concerns, either personal or professional.” The Care team comprises ‘compassionate staff members from all grades’ who volunteer their support, and ‘signpost to resources relevant to the individual’s circumstances’. If further support is needed, the prison’s Occupational Health Department offers 1:1 counselling or ‘fast-track’ EMDR therapy

Governor of HMP Grendon, Olivia Phelps, said:  “Investing in the mental health of prison staff isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a necessity for running safer, more rehabilitative environments. Here at HMP Grendon we take a proactive approach to mental health support for prison officers. This is a difficult job that brings unique challenges and difficulties. Part of our duty of care to them means prioritising their mental wellbeing.”

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