How Inmates Handle Depression/Sadness    by    Ruth Utnage

Something that’s universal in inmates is depression. Nearly all of us tie feelings, irrationally, back to our identities as human beings, i.e. “I’m in here because I’m a bad person, that’s why nobody writes”.

It is common knowledge that if you take an animal from its natural environment, say…a whale, it succumbs to depression and becomes dependent. Whales, as far as we know, don’t question their identities as good or bad whales, whales don’t have emotional systems that are as complex as humans’. It stands to reason, then, that inmates, removed from our natural habitat of society, will also succumb to bouts of depression and with that comes the question of our identity as overall good or bad. Bad means no longer accepted by the world, good means accepted by the world. During our state of depression we must reconcile that because of our very real separation.

To address how inmates deal with this I have to break us up into groupings. 15-70-15. 15% of inmates are very toxic people, have no inclination to change for the better for whatever their reasoning. 70% generally quiet and very order driven, they will do whatever most anyone who seems stronger than them will tell them to do. 15% are very driven towards improvement, leading the way in pro-social doctrine. For our purposes I will label them change-averse, followers and change-driven accordingly.

Change-averse quits everything. Though there isn’t much for them to quit because they typically don’t start much of anything but trouble. For them, depression gets dealt with via drugs, violence or anger. They will tell you they don’t feel it, but they do and it maddens them. Like putting hornets in a jar and shaking them. In the rare cases when they do admit it outright, this demographic will provide emotional support to one another via unhealthy outlets, usually drugs or violent favors as gifts.

The followers typically resort to drugs as well. The get isolated because their aura’s and attitude drive down others and it’s not socially acceptable to provide comfort to one another in this demographic. They are too afraid of how the aggressors will perceive them, so they isolate, do drugs, or act out violently with a case of the “f**k its”.

The change-driven group, my group, we admit our feelings pretty openly and seek help when the emotion cannot be dealt with using usual coping mechanisms. We will ask to see mental health, we will take breaks from things, stop things that are unhealthy for us, seek emotional support from our peers because we know that they will provide well-guided advice and reasonable support.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, then by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” (“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire )

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