Christian ministries tackling mental health in prison


by Jennifer Valentine-Miller

According to the head of an independent review into suicides in prisons, the HM Inspectorate paper has documented that the rate since the 2007 review has increased by more than 50%.  This percentage was drawn from over 220 new prisoners who completed the reception screening form (GHQ12) which indicates primary or secondary mental health needs.

The Labour peer Lord Harris was asked by the government to conduct a review on how to reduce self-inflicted deaths in custody.  The major question that will be asked is are there interventions that could have been done which could have saved the government money – by stopping mental health needs ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place?  The BBC reported recently that  “obviously there will always be a core of prisoners who do need to be in prison. But, if some of the others were not inside, there would be more resources to make sure those individuals were supported and prison achieved its objectives in terms of rehabilitation.”

The Ministry of Justice covers transfers from prison to hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983. Their guidance also covers work with restricted patients detained in hospital and those discharged into the community.

The Orthodox Church (OC) in America claims that more than 2 million prisoners are being held in federal or state prisons or in local jails. Building and maintaining prisons is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Yet many of us feel that prison ministry is better left to the “professionals,” prison chaplains, or those specially trained for this kind of work. The OC also went on to say that everyone is called to undertake prison ministry because firstly it is a biblical command.  Secondly, many jails and prisons have no full-time or even part-time chaplains or any religious services at all.  Even in prisons that have chaplains, they cannot possibly minister to more than a small percentage of inmates there. And thirdly, statistics tell us that for every person incarcerated, there are three to five other people affected:  families, loved ones, and children.

The national newspaper for prisoners and detainees in the UK which is named, InsideTime, raised an issue which emphasized and agreed that prison chaplains should have keen interest and concern for all inmates.  Every prisoner should have the opportunity to speak with a chaplain. The article also went on to say that “a majority of prisoners may not wish to avail themselves of the opportunity, but at least people should be given the choice to yes or no thanks to the offer of a listening ear”.

Kingdom Keys is a Bible teaching ministry, passionate about teaching the truth of God’s Word in a clear, practical and effective way. They have found through the many people they met in prisons, “many genuinely want to change, some  convert to Christianity for the first time and others return from backsliding into a criminal lifestyle.”  The team  deliver a 4-week course within a national HMS prison; the theme for the weekend is entitled Battle of the Mind.  Satan never plays fair. And the reason why it is so intense is that your greatest asset is the mind. I know what it is like when you unable to hear God. My mind is distracted and I cannot seem to connect with God even when I want to connect to God. And I know whatever gets your mind gets me. So one of the most important things we need to be learnt and teach others is how to guard, strengthen, and renew our minds, because the battle for sin always starts in the mind.

However,  from within the prison walls of  HMP Brixton they are more than willing to announce that their prisoners are given access to faith-based services within the prison’s establishment.  ‘Faith in the Future’ is a six-week, full-time resettlement course.  It runs for 30 men, five times a year and covers victim awareness, budgeting, parenting, communication skills and employability. They discuss moral issues and have a module called Christianity Explored.  HMP Brixton went on to say that the course is open to men of any faith who are willing to explore from a Christian perspective the resettlement issues that might bind their minds or infect their conscience.

Domestic Abuse: Children are also affected

(Photo: Mudchute Park, Isle of Dogs)

by Jennifer Valentine-Miller

The effects of seeing a parent experience domestic violence can lead a child into prolonged self-abuse.  I believe that any form of abuse should be reported, if not to officials, but most definitely to grandparents, in-laws, or other family members who could temporarily look after both you and the child or children. Domestic violence can prevent a child’s mind and educational thought pattern from developing, causing malfunctioning and even a breakdown. You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, or asking for help, and you may worry that your children will be taken away from you if you report the violence.

[1]Acting responsibly and seeking help for both you and your children is key, as well as not blaming yourself for someone else’s abuse. It is important that you – the non-abusing parent – are supported so that in turn you can support your children and ensure that they are safe, and far away from the effects of witnessing the violence.

Children will react in different ways to being brought up in a home with a violent person. Age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality will all have an effect on a child’s responses. Most children, however, will be affected in some way by tension or by witnessing arguments, distressing behaviour or assaults – even if they do not always show this. They may feel that they are to blame, or – like you – they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.

These are some of the effects of domestic violence on children:

  • They may have difficulty sleeping.
  • They may become anxious or depressed.
  • They may have nightmares or flashbacks.
  • They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches.
  • They may start to wet their bed.
  • They may have temper tantrums.
  • They may behave as though they are much younger than they are.
  • They may have problems at school, or may start truanting.
  • They may become aggressive.
  • They may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people.
  • They may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
  • Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs.
  • They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves.
  • They may develop an eating disorder.

Violence may also interfere with your children’s social relationships: they may feel unable to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see. They may feel guilty, and think the violence is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out. Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work and everyday activities.

The 25th November is the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women (16 Days of Action). The 16 Days of Action mark the links between violence against women and human rights and runs from 25 November to 10 December.

If you would like to fundraise in advance by holding a bake sale, maybe get a few others involved and stage a competition with a raffle then please notify to discuss some ideas of your own and to request a fundraising pack c/o Women’s Aid, PO Box Bristol 391, BS99 7WS (Registered Charity No. 1054154)

[1] Life-coach & Motivator Kim Bacchus recommends her highly publicised book – Stop Hurting Me – Time to Get Out!

Good Childrens’ Books are still around

Little Red Riding-Hood

Little Red Riding-Hood

by Jennifer  Valentine-Miller

The Golden age saw a shift to a modern genre of children’s literature occur in the mid-19th century, as the informative qualities of a previous age began to make way for more humorous, child-oriented books, more attuned to the child’s imagination.

The availability of children’s literature greatly increased as well, as paper and printing became widely available and affordable, the population grew and literacy rates improved. Today, many parents seem to be in a huge rush for their kids to read J. K. ROWLING and Harry Potter. As soon as most children get beyond the Junie B Jones and Magic Treehouse books some parents run out and buy Harry Potter forgetting the true foundation behind the series. Even Barnes & Noble and as well, Amazon, list the Harry Potter collection as suitable for nine to twelve olds.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

When elementary school readers are given Harry Potter to read, they start the book, perhaps even making it through the second in the series and stop, deciding that they don’t like Harry Potter and generally don’t pick the rest of the series. Having seen the colourful screen adaptation, many parents seem to be in a huge rush for their children to read Harry Potter, after having decided that their young child has outgrown the colour and splendour of WALT DISNEY’S wizardry and dragons. Or is it because of the multi-million commercial aspect, parents who are confounded because every child likes Harry Potter and it is the ultimate chapter book, so why not their child? Harry Potter is much harder than most children’s and young adult (and adult) books. Not only are they very difficult to read but the books are very long and there are seven of them which is a lot for a young reader. Not only are they very difficult to read but the books are very long and there are seven of them which is a lot for a young reader. Professor Jack Zipes from the University of Minnesota asked the question, are we a childist society? – and – what role does literature play in dealing with child neglect and abandonment?

In 1883 the first Italian fantasy novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio was written, and it has since been translated many times.

Another important book of that decade was The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby, (1862), which became extremely popular in England, and has remained a classic of British children’s literature.

In Britain, The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and its sequel The Princess and Curdie, followed in 1883.

Hans Christian Anderson was a Danish author and poet who travelled through Europe and gathered in the early 19th century, many well-known Fairy Tales. He was followed by the Brothers Grimm, who preserved the traditional tales told in Germany. They were so popular in their home country that modern, realistic children’s literature began to be looked down on there. This dislike of non-traditional stories continued there until the beginning of the next century. The Grimm’s contribution to children’s literature goes beyond their collection of stories, as great as that is. As professors, they had a scholarly interest in all their stories, striving to preserve them and their variations accurately.

In 1911 the world was presented with the story of Peter Pan in the novel Peter and Wendy.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778 who argued that children should be allowed to develop naturally and joyously. His idea of appealing to children’s natural interests took hold among writers for children. His theories urged children to teach themselves. While John Locke (1693) argued children were the tabula rasa (blank slate) upon which ideas could be impressed, Rousseau countered by saying children developed at their own pace and on their own terms. Though Locke’s and Rousseau’s philosophies seem opposed, they both highlight the role of children’s books in the creation of child development.

In 1880-1881 Spyri published the two-part novel Heidi was published in Switzerland.

The Little Pretty Pocket-Book and The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes began the origins of the modern era in literature. These were Newbery’s most popular books with Good Two-Shoes widely considered as the first modern children’s book, published in 1744. It was a landmark as the first children’s publication aimed at giving enjoyment to children, containing a mixture of rhymes, picture stories and games for pleasure. Newbery believed that the play was a better enticement to children’s good behavior than physical discipline, and the child was to record his or her behavior daily. The modern children’s book emerged in mid-18th century England. The book was child–sized with a brightly coloured cover that appealed to children—something new in the publishing industry. Known as gift books, these early books became the precursors to the toy books popular in the 19th century. Newbery was also skilled at marketing this new genre.

This popular family novel, The Swiss Family Robinson in 1812, with the aim of teaching children about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance. The book became popular across Europe after it was translated into French by Isabelle de Montolieu.

Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in Bombay, in the Bombay Presidency of British India, and was taken by his family to England when he was five years old. Kipling is best known for his works of fiction, including:
*The Jungle Book (1894) we read how Bagheera the Panther and Baloo the Bear had difficulty trying to convince a boy to leave the jungle for human civilization.
*Just So Stories (1902)
*Kim (1901, a tale of adventure)
*The Man Who Would Be King (1888)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865 in England that signaled the change in writing style for children to an imaginative and empathetic one. Regarded as the first “English masterpiece written for children” and as a founding book in the development of fantasy literature, its publication opened the “First Golden Age” of children’s literature in Britain and Europe that continued until the early 1900s.

The “historic book” Little Women was produced in, 1868, this book was based along the fictionalized autobiography of Louisa May Alcott.

This “coming of age” story established the genre of realistic family books in the United States. Mark Twain released Tom Sawyer in 1876, and in 1880 another bestseller Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings, based on African American folk tales special adapted and compiled for a wider global audience by Joel Chandler Harris.

In 1865 the United States’ children’s publishing era entered a period of growth after the American Civil War in 1865 when boys’ – books were produced. Oliver Optic published over 100 books.

Referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. Among his awards are for contribution to literature, he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children’s Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990.
His works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda.

Treasure Island and Kidnapped were extremely popular in the 1880s.

Tom Brown’s School Days appeared in 1857, and is considered to be the founding book in the school story tradition.