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Depression is a common mental problem that makes a person feel down-hearted and low. Different kinds of stresses in life lead to the development of depression and low mood in people. To be sentenced to prison is among the most stressful depressive events in a prisoner’s life.
A prisoner is a person who is legally held in prison as punishment for a crime or while awaiting trial. This imprisonment is a traumatic experience for the person, as it restricts one’s liberty of movement.
Prisoners are under huge stress mentally and physically, leading to psychological changes that lead to depression. Researchers consider a prison as “a powerhouse of mental problems.” Prisoners already having mental problems become more ill, and those without any mental illness are likely to develop it during their stay in lockup.
Imprisonment can hugely affect the thinking and behavior of a person and cause severe levels of depression. However, the psychological impact on each prisoner varies with the time, situation, and place. For some, the prison experience can be a frightening and depressing one, which takes many years to overcome. Depression is especially likely in a prisoner who is subjected to pain, fear, and loneliness.
Some of the main factors that lead to anxiety and, hence depression, in a prisoner are as follows:
Memories of illegal acts: During their time in prison, the offenders tends to relive the moments of their crime. This makes them feel guilty and remorseful. Constantly having these thoughts may result in severe depression.
Prison: Prisoners are confined to a restricted space, which makes them yearn for the days spent in freedom in the outside world. Prolonged stay in the prison may lead to intense depression, which persists even after their release.
Missing loved ones: Prisoners feel loneliness, as they are isolated from their family and loved ones. They recall the days spent outside prison. These thoughts of loneliness create the mental conditions of anxiety and depression.
Life with other prisoners: Living with other prisoners who may be violent arouses serious feelings of insecurity and fear in the mind of the prisoner. They live in fear of harm to themselves.
The depressed prisoner exhibits certain symptoms which may include:
Distress at constantly seeing the prison gate, which makes prisoners feel trapped
The depressed prisoner constantly engages in negative thinking or may even try some negative acts, like escaping from the prison
They lose confidence in themselves and feel as if they might lose their mind and become mad
They experience lack of appetite and lack of sleep in the prison environment
Behavioral changes occur making such prisoners restless and nervous
Low mood and depression are interrelated. A low mood is characterized by sad feelings that often come and go; however, the presence of low mood that does not go away even after two weeks is a symptom of being at risk for depression. Prisoners may be affected by various kinds of low moods.
The government, the health department, and the prison administration need to take constructive steps to improve the mental state of prisoners, to help them to rejoin society and lead a normal life.