Frontline Mental Health Workers and Incarceration: Expectations Vs. Reality and Stress Management During COVID-19

Hannah Westwood, Dr. Jamie Chapman, Department of Criminal Justice Studies, Westminster College, 319 S Market Street, New Wilmington PA 16172.

This current research seeks to examine the experiences of Frontline Mental Health Workers such as Corrections Officers and Nurses. As the mental health crisis in the United States grows, Frontline workers take on additional challenges and tasks that affect physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Staff such as Corrections Officers, while not specifically trained for mental health intervention, are exposed to mental health crises and stressful situations. Using a symbolic interactionist approach, this research examines the “caring” professions in the context of COVID-19.

This Capstone project is part of an on-going faculty-lead research project focusing on the lived experiences of Frontline Mental Health Workers working in incarcerated settings. The project is designed as a qualitative secondary analysis project consisting of 20 interviews from Frontline Mental Health Workers and seeks to identify and explain the workplace stressors they experience.  In the midst of the global pandemic, this research specifically focuses on the perceptions and experiences of Frontline Workers and how these experiences are contextualized. In addition to the typical workplace stressors, COVID-19 has created unforeseen challenges and stressors for those working in incarcerated settings. This proposed research intends to examine these perceptions to contextualize experiences; with particular attention to post COVID-19 experiences or changes to these experiences. To date, certain themes have emerged, such as a delineation between expectations versus realities, stress exasperation, and changing role expectations. The findings of this study will give a unique and relevant perspective of caring professions as they negotiate their new and challenging roles during a global pandemic.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Hannah Westwood

Institution: Westminster College

Type: Poster

Subject: Criminology/Criminal Justice

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 5
Date/Time: Tue 12:30pm-1:30pm
Session Number: 4064