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Incarceration, Motherhood and Mental Health

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Depression, anxiety and stress are among the mental health problems common experienced by people. According to the World Health Organization-Philippines 2017 global statistics, more than 300 million people are battling depression, or an increase of more than 18 percent during the period 2005-2015 (Mateo, 2017) with the prevalence rate ranging from 2.6 to 29.5 percent (Magtubo, 2017). Among all people suffering from depression, 85% of them live in low- and middle-income countries (Khan, 2018).

In the Philippines alone, it is estimated that 3.29 million people are living with depression and that 3.07 million are be living with anxiety (Mateo, 2017). These are among the most common mental health issues confronted by those who are incarcerated. Shrestha, et al. (2017), contended that depression is the most common form of mental disorder among inmates, with a prevalence much higher than in the general population.

Criminologist have observed an increasing number of women involved in crimes and found in jails and prisons in countries such as Brazil, in Israel and in the US. It was noted that in several countries worldwide, there is an upward trend for incarcerated mothers. Incarceration results in the physical separation of mothers from their children.

In the Philippines, there is an upsurge in the population of prisons and jails brought about by the drug campaign, which started in 2016. It is the year President Duterte’s war on drugs began. Of this increasing number of women, many are mothers. The family is considered as the first institution that can satisfy an individual’s natural needs with the mother as the primary care giver.

Tremblay and Sutherland (2017) found evidence to suggest that maternal incarceration can have negative implications for children. Being a mother involves having a child or children and entails a lot of responsibility from gestating, caring, rearing, guiding, and eventually letting go of children as responsible and functional members of society and the demands are endless. One of the negative effects of maternal incarceration is that that these children left behind are vulnerable of having conduct problems, antisocial behavior and even or at risk of dropping out in school or encounter academic failures. There are numerous studies on the effect of incarceration to the children but there is a dearth of studies in the Philippines that attempts to understand the experience of motherhood in incarceration from the perspectives of the mothers themselves.

Incarceration affects not just the children but the mothers themselves. Earlier studies have shown that confinement in jail environment is a potential stressful factor. According to Unver et al. (2013), among those incarcerated he studied they suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. Contributing factors among mothers include their care arrangement for their children at arrest and imprisonment.

The present study involves the assessment of the mental health of incarcerated women by determining their level of depression, anxiety, and stress and to know their lived experience as a mother. The researcher, being a mother herself, finds motherhood challenging despite her physical presence at home. She wants to know how these mothers cope with their role as a mother while separated from the family as a result of incarceration. The findings of this study serve as the empirical basis for community service activities for different agencies and organizations that cater to the needs of incarcerated women particularly mothers. The output of this study may empower these incarcerated mothers to find effective means of coping with the different barriers they encounter and how to transcend them to become better mothers.

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