Trial of new treatment to prevent prisoner suicide launches

A new talking therapy for men in prison who struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings is being launched in the UK.

The team of clinicians, academics, researchers, service users and carers will study the effects of Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention therapy within prisons.

Suicide is the leading cause of preventable death in prisons in England and Wales with 86 prisoner deaths and 52,000 episodes of self-injury in 2021 alone, leaving prisoners five times more likely to take their own lives than the general population.

The Prevention of Suicide in Prisons: Enhancing Access to Therapy (PROSPECT) programme is a collaboration between Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Manchester, the University of York, and King’s College London.

It is funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care.

If proven to be effective, the promising new therapy could offer hope to those currently living in prison and also to the families, friends and professionals who care for them.

Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention is a talking therapy delivered in once or twice weekly 1:1 sessions, each lasting 30-60 minutes with up to 20 sessions in total.

The therapy supports patients to develop a personalised understanding of the reasons for suicide.

It aims to provide short term, immediate benefit while also working towards longer-term gains through development of resilience to future suicidal episodes.

Dr Tim Kirkpatrick, a Research Fellow from The University of Manchester, said: “Suicide in male prisons is a serious problem and there is a great need to prevent it.

“The PROSPECT programme aims to improve treatments by promoting access to a promising new therapy: Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention (CBSP) within prisons.

“If successful, the PROSPECT programme will help to reduce the personal, economic, and social costs of prison suicide.”

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