Resilience for Prisoners

Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust. Moved between four different concentration camps during the Second World War, he understood that even when there is huge physical hardship, you can survive IF you can manage your mind.

Here are some tips for you to help manage your mind and be more resilient during the changes in regime during lockdown and the current Coronavirus health crisis.

“Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last human freedom – to choose your own attitude in any set of circumstances.”

Viktor Frankl (adapted)

Use the skills you already have…

You already have a huge number of skills to help you survive a lockdown (more than most people in fact), so, the first thing to do is to remind yourself, “What already works for me, as I survive prison life?”

Make a note or find a way of reminding yourself regularly. We can get really creative when we come into prison and discover things about ourselves that we never realised, like song or creative writing, art, even poetry. Why not experiment a bit? See what you can discover about yourself.

What changes are you finding most difficult?

Some changes that you could find really difficult to cope with might include losing visits or regular outdoor exercise. Whatever it is, can you think of an alternative activity to help fill the gap, for example: in-cell exercise, writing letters or art work? It can’t replace what you miss, but, it might help get you through this time a bit more easily than doing nothing about your frustration.

Enjoy what you can

If talking to family makes you feel good, really notice it at the time, when you’re doing it, rather than feeling sad when you’re not.

Notice what makes you feel better

Perhaps you feel safer than usual? Perhaps the pressure is off for a while… you don’t have to look tough, get into a fight, lead a gang, deal with stuff that could get you days added? Perhaps you don’t have to see people who get on your nerves? Whatever it is, try to make sure you really appreciate any benefits.

life belt - resilience for prisoners - Petros - good mental health

What can you do for others?

It’s extraordinary how good doing something nice for another person can make you feel. It might simply be doing what a member of staff asks without resisting (you have no idea what difference that can make to their day). It might mean listening to someone who’s struggling. It might be saying, “thank you” to someone. Perhaps you could list all the things you do to survive bang up and share it with people outside? You are the expert here. It might simply be smiling at someone, give it a go now, seriously, make your face smile and spread it to your eyes. Notice how you feel, and notice how other people respond.


Click here to download your PRINT READY Resilience for Prisoners Guide

Remember, that NO ONE has ever been in this situation before.

We are all learning and everyone is trying to do their best.

What would your tips be? Pass them on.