‘Wayward lad’ is sat next to me; we’re in the van. I found him at the station and we are heading back to LandWorks. He needs/is required to contact probation, having gone “undercover” for a few days, “I’m off the radar Chris, off the radar!”

I pass my phone over, his call connects to probation, “Can I speak to Alan please?” pauses “This is Lord Attenborough, permission to abort, repeat, permission to abort, over.”

Phone passed back, face right next to mine, so close his words are sticking to my skin, “Told you mate I got Mental Health Issues.”

I have no doubt that he has; prison statistics suggest that on any day nearly three quarters of our cohort might be struggling with one or more mental health issues.

However on that same day at LandWorks there is also a high percentage with physical health issues, back ache in particular… Oh! Don’t get me started.

So, we can all talk (at length) about our various aches and pains. Guys even boast about a pulled something or other from last night’s hectic gym session. There is an accepted avenue of conversation for physical health, even a language!

But for mental health, we seem to lack any conversational highway, more just a dead end.


Mental health paperYet in private, I don’t think there is one man who has not described suicidal thoughts to me. It’s usually early on in their sentence. Do you know prisoners are 14 times more likely to have mental health problems than the general population?

The amount of prescribed mental wellbeing medication is phenomenal, as are the quantities of unprescribed drugs. Undiagnosed, misused, and often for self-medication.

The prison estate is awash with ‘Spice’, which is not an ingredient used in creating cell kettle curry (that’s for another blog).

This is a nasty, difficult-to-detect, chemical legal high with appalling side effects. Yesterday a man using Spice, convinced he had an alien in his stomach, decided to cut it out on the floor of his cell.

He is due for release in 10 days.

So I am no expert…but I do see that for ‘Wayward Lad’ a few hours engaged in something – digging, building or any other physical activity – his world and ours become a better place.

Although I do accept there can be a bit of backache…

Still at least we all seem capable of talking about that!