Minor psychiatric disturbance in women serving a prison sentence: The use of the General Health Questionnaire in the estimation of the prevalence of non-psychotic disturbance in women prisoners
Purpose. Minor psychiatric disturbance contributes considerably to the workload of health care staff in women's prisons, although the indefinite nature of the complaint makes epidemiological investigation problematic. This study tests the utility of a standard measure of psychological distress, the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), and considers the relationship between minor psychiatric disturbance in women prisoners and other criterion variables. Methods. A questionnaire survey, including the GHQ, was distributed to 377 women prisoners, the total population of three women's prison in England on a given day. Results. In all, 214 respondents returned questionnaires (a response rate of 57%). The GHQ was completed by 95% (204) of the respondents who returned their questionnaires. Of these women, 107 (52%) were identified as possible psychiatric ‘cases’. Psychiatric morbidity was significantly associated with self-reported ill-health, psychosocial concerns, negative evaluations of aspects of prison life and an expressed need for help and advice. Conclusions. The results are broadly supportive of the utility of the GHQ in this setting and point to differential influences upon the psychological well-being of women prisoners. The findings have implications for further research, requirements for service provision and for mental health promotion in women's prisons.
Legal and Criminological Psychology