Scots prisoners open up about life behind bars and toll on mental health

Scots prisoners have lifted the lid on life behind bars and the how it takes a toll on their mental health.

Inmates at HMP Edinburgh said violence, drugs and lack of sleep at night with loud TVs blaring can leave them struggling.

Some hit out at long waits for mental health support. But others want to see more access to yoga, football, quizzes and songwriting classes to help prisoners open up, Edinburgh Live reports.

Dad David Murray said he misses his family and struggles with chronic lack of sleep.

“Family is the most important thing and it is difficult to make calls and see them,” he said. “My son has mental health issues which means he struggles with only getting to see me for 45 minutes and then having to leave again.

“There is often violence and drug taking. There is no sense of calm until you are locked up in your cell and that is when the internal thoughts come and your mental health is out the window.

“Either you go to sleep or watch the telly. I’d say that sleeping is a luxury here. There is so much noise in the evenings, folk have their TVs on full blast through the night.

“I think the long waits for mental support are not great and you can struggle to get access to classes. But when you do it is beneficial, I can practise yoga in my cell and it helps put my mind at rest.”

Prison chiefs recently warned that significant overcrowding with chronic drug use, widespread mental health issues, and ever increasing violence and self-harm is a "recipe for disaster."

Jude Chattell, 42, says prisoners need access to more services to help them get a grip on their mental health.

He battles with depression and keeps busy with work as a way to cope. But he says he finds it hard to open up because it leaves him feeling vulnerable.

“I cannot concentrate on anything for a long time, I try to play my xbox and watch tv but I often get fed up after five minutes and go to sleep,” he said. “I work in recycling and am part of the waste management team.

“Having a purpose really helps me as there is nothing worse than being sat in your cell all day. Prison is about battling boredom.

“Activities are not always available and I want to do more education but there is not enough here. There are too many of us and not enough resources for us to get access.

“I’d say it can be hard to shield from drugs, as you have friends here who can be using and always offering you things like Spice. I’ve tried it a few times and made me a zombie trying to get back to my cell.

“It was not for me. I play Minecraft and every other guy laughs but it is what helps me.

“We try not to show our vulnerabilities as some people in here can use it against you and try to hurt you with it, which puts a big burden on yourself.”

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