Mental Illness Affects 1 in 5 People, Incarcerated Individuals Included – How Correctional Facilities Can Provide Beneficial Resources

Mental Health Awareness Month shines a spotlight on mental illness, its ties to substance abuse, and the role of incarceration


Falls Church, Virginia (PR Newswire) – May 12, 2020 –  GTL, a leader in transformative corrections technology that improves outcomes for inmates and facilities, today announced its support for Mental Health Awareness Month. For over 70 years, Mental Health Awareness Month has been recognized in May by organizations such as Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and many others.

Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, race, or gender. It also does not discriminate based on incarceration status. In fact, incarcerated individuals are more likely to have a mental health issue than other population groups. A 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that 56% of state prisoners, 45% of Federal prisoners, and 64% of jailed inmates suffered from a mental illness. However, only 33% of state prisoners, 25% of Federal prisoners, and 17% of jail inmates suffering from mental illness received treatment during incarceration.

“The 2005 study might seem outdated, but the numbers remain about the same—across the U.S., there are more individuals with mental illnesses incarcerated than in psychiatric hospitals,” said Pelicia Hall, GTL Senior Vice President, Reentry Programs. “However, while not enough, there are many valuable resources available to help reduce the number of incarcerated individuals with mental health issues, to provide treatment to those that are incarcerated, and to offer continuing help to returning citizens after they are released. As a company focused on corrections technology, GTL is dedicated to providing resources and solutions that help to address this problem. With the current pandemic situation affecting everyone in the United States, physical and mental health are of the utmost importance. There is an unfortunate stigma surrounding mental health issues that keeps many from seeking treatment. That needs to change.”

There are many national organizations focused on getting help for individuals suffering from mental illness, ensuring their safety and well-being. The NAMI Stepping Up Initiative is a national effort that brings together mental health organizations, substance abuse organizations, and law enforcement associations to divert people with mental illness from incarceration into treatment. Instead of addressing the symptom (the crime committed), NAMI focuses on the root of the problem (mental illness).

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a location-based list of substance abuse and mental health treatment. For certain populations needing treatment but not knowing where to turn, Give an Hour is a national network of professionals who volunteer their time to provide free and confidential mental health care to the military community, including veterans, military, and their loved ones. They help to increase the likelihood that those in need receive the support and care they deserve.

GTL is one small piece of the solution, offering resources that incarcerated individuals can access on tablets. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that half of those who experience a mental illness will also experience substance abuse or vice versa—something known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. A June 2017 Special Report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that 58% of inmates housed in state prisons and 63% of those housed in jail facilities met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Again, very few (28% of prison inmates and 22% of jail inmates) received any sort of treatment due to barriers faced, including the lack of resources, infrastructure, and staff required to meet drug treatment needs. To assist in breaking down those barriers, GTL has partnered with Breaking Free Group, a UK-based digital health and behavioral science company that has pioneered the utilization in corrections settings of clinically-robust digital behavior change interventions for addictions, to offer the “Breaking Free from Substance Abuse” digital program via secure GTL inmate tablets. The program assists incarcerated individuals in achieving and maintaining recovery from dependence on over 70 different substances, including opioids, stimulants, prescribed medications, and alcohol.

GTL tablets also provide access to the Peace Education Program from The Prem Rawat Foundation, which helps participants discover a renewed sense of purpose, including how to use their own inner resources and lead more fulfilling lives through the exploration of 10 thought-provoking themes: Peace, Appreciation, Inner Strength, Self-Awareness, Clarity, Understanding, Dignity, Choice, Hope, and Contentment. This program can help improve mental health and well-being.

“Mental health issues touch people in all walks of life and all locations, and we must remember that it is okay to not be okay,” concluded Ms. Hall. “What is not okay is to ignore the prevalence of these issues without an eye toward meaningful solutions. While struggling with mental illness might feel lonely, there are dozens of national organizations that can pair people with resources, recommend treatment paths, and more. GTL works with many of these community partners to offer mental health resources for incarcerated individuals, and we plan to expand those partnerships. May might be Mental Health Awareness Month, but it should be a focus all year round.”


 About GTL

GTL leads the fields of corrections technology, education, and intelligence, as well as government payment services, with visionary solutions that integrate seamlessly to deliver security, financial value, and operational efficiencies while aiding inmate rehabilitation. As a trusted industry leader, GTL provides services to over 1.6 million inmates in more than 2,300 correctional facilities in the United States and Canada, including 29 U.S. departments of corrections, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons. GTL is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, with an employee presence throughout North America. To learn more about GTL, please visit or social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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