Mental illness and parenthood: being a parent in secure psychiatric care

MacInnes, D. L., Parrott, F. and Parrott, J. (2015) Mental illness and parenthood: being a parent in secure psychiatric care. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 25 (4). pp. 258-272. ISSN 1471-2857.


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Background: Research into parenting and mental illness seldom includes forensic mental health service users, despite its relevance to therapeutic, family work and risk management.

Aims: To understand the experiences of parents and the variety of parenting roles maintained during admission to a secure forensic hospital.

Methods: Narrative interviews with eighteen parents (8 mothers, 10 fathers) at an English medium security hospital were analysed thematically, using the framework approach. The proportion of patients who are parents and their contact patterns with their children were estimated from records.

Results: About a quarter of men and 38% of women were parents. Parenthood was of central importance to their emotional life, spanning experiences of loss, shame and failed expectations, joy, responsibility and hope. Fewer fathers maintained contact with their children than mothers, yet fatherhood remained a vital aspect of men’s identities, with impact on their self-esteem. Parenting during lengthy admissions - while constrained and dependent on professional support and surveillance – ranged from sending gifts and money to visits and phone calls. Offending was seen as a particularly shameful aspect of admission, contributing to distancing from own risk and difficulty explaining detention to children.

Conclusions: Such complex experiences call for multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills. Provision of focused therapy, as well as appropriate visiting spaces, creative approaches to contact time, and support for patients in explaining their mental illness and detention to their children are recommended.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine > RA0790 Mental health services. Mental illness prevention
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Wellbeing > School of Nursing
Depositing User: Dr Douglas MacInnes
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2016 15:40
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2018 06:22

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00