Lib Dems reveal self-harm in prisons increases 40% in 12 months


Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today demanded new investment in mental health care in prisons after the party published “devastating” new statistics showing self-harm incidents increased by 43% last year.

The number of self-harm incidents in prisons spiralled from 532 in 2017, to 762 in 2018. These incidents are recorded under burns, cuts, attempted suicide, ligature, overdoses and swallowing items.

There were significant increases recorded at individual prisons including:

  • Addiewell - 81 to 137 (a 69% increase year-on-year)
  • Grampian - 121 to 175 (45%)
  • Edinburgh - 74 to 102 (38%)
  • Perth - 16 to 51 (219%)

Just two additional mental health workers are in Scottish prisons since the Scottish Government’s commitment in March 2017 to hire 800 new staff across prisons, the police, A&E and GPs.

Liam McArthur commented:

“Incident numbers have been on an upward trajectory for years but last year they skyrocketed. There were 15 incidents a week of people self-harming in 2018, up from 10 the year before. We’ve seen heart-breaking suicides of young people too.

“The scale of self-harm in Scotland’s prisons is devastating. This must prompt serious new investment in prison mental health care.

“Prison staff are working incredibly hard but they don't have the resources or staff they need. With two thirds of our prisons now overcrowded, health professionals have spoken out about the risk that the rapidly escalating prison population poses to critical services.

“It has been two years since the Scottish Government accepted Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals to expand the mental health workforce in prisons. However, so far there are just 2 new staff across Scotland’s 15 prisons. Ministers still can’t tell us how many extra staff there will be in the end.

“Staff, prisoners and the communities they return to have every right to demand better. We need more mental health professionals deployed in our prisons now. This will help save lives.”


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