Not everyone faces the prospect of a custodial sentence in their lifetime, and for many of those awaiting sentencing, prison time was not an expected outcome. This is especially true for ‘white collar’ criminals, convicted often for crimes of which they were wilfully ignorant, or believed to be victimless.
Still, for those approaching prison time, mental health is a leading and valid concern. If you are facing prison time, what should you do to address your mental health?
Talk to Family and Friends
If you notice your mental health deteriorating during criminal proceedings, your first port of call should be your immediate family and friends. Mental health issues can be debilitating, and criminal proceedings are a difficult process for even the most balanced individuals.
Talking to loved ones can allow you to air your legitimate concerns for the tribulations to come, and to seek support for the less rational thoughts and emotions that surface during the process. Sometimes the simple act of sharing your fears can be relieving – and you may get some good advice in the process.
Review Your Legal Options
You will already be in close conversation with your legal representatives ahead of any trial or sentencing procedure, regarding the specifics of your case and the rubric for the upcoming procedure. But your legal counsel is not just there to interpret and present your case in court; your lawyers will also have a vested interest in your best interests, with unique knowledge and experience to agitate for certain provisions and conditions.
Indeed, even as a convicted criminal awaiting sentencing, there are various rights to which you are entitled – enshrined by the Equality Act 2010, and by interpretations of the law from cases past. Low self-esteem is a common symptom in those facing legal consequences, and particularly common amongst those already suffering a mental condition of some description; as such, you may not have your own best interests at heart when it comes to seeking certain accommodations.
However, in opening up to your legal team, they can speak on behalf of your conditions and needs, and potentially achieve results that benefit you both in the short and long term. Your mental health could also become a key factor in your legal case, and lead to more equitable treatment when it comes to sentencing.
Start Positive Mental Habits
If a custodial sentence looks to be a certainty for your specific charges, the prospect of prison can become overwhelmingly edifying. In prison, you will find you have limited access to many resources you may otherwise take for granted – including access to certain self-help mental health resources.
To mentally prepare for your custodial sentence, and to give yourself the tools to remain in control of your mental health during your stay, you should start to incorporate positive habits into your daily routine, based on research and practice. Creating a meditation routine, for example, can help you organise your head, and centre your goals for rehabilitation.
Seek Professional Counsel
However, there is only so far you can get with your mental health alone. In many cases, and especially regarding the complex emotions surfacing from your unique situation, professional mental help can be a necessary part of your recovery and personal maintenance.
This professional help can be indispensable before your sentencing, but can also be accessed from within the prison system. Many have an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service you can access, though creating a history of discussion with your GP can help you access different secondary care services.