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4 Strategies for Supporting Incarcerated Family Members

Guest Contributor:

Jessica Henry, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

African Americans are incarcerated at disproportionate rates and nearly six times the rate of whites. Research indicates that family closeness and support are protective and beneficial for African Americans, which suggests that African American families may be able to provide an additional source of support for loved ones who are incarcerated.

Family members can help increase awareness of mental health concerns by contacting the jail or prison.

Changes in behavior or an increase in mental health symptoms are often noticed by family members and friends. For instance, someone who is incarcerated may begin experiencing psychosis (hearing and/or seeing things that are not there) or reporting increased suicidal thoughts or hopelessness. Your family member or friend who is incarcerated may display or share these thoughts and symptoms during visitation, on phone calls, and/or in letters/emails. If you are a family member of someone who is incarcerated who is displaying a change in behavior and/or increased mental health symptoms, you can contact the jail or prison where your family member is incarcerated and inform them of these concerns. There may be a mental health department at the jail or prison that can provide your family member with treatment services or a treatment facility where your family member can be referred to.

Family members can encourage the use of mental health treatment services.