Women prisoners working in the
garden and on the farm at East Sutton
Prison. Mike Abrahams/Alamy.
The progress of women at HMP
East Sutton Park speaks for itself.
DDN heard Sylvia’s story
y mother was
alcoholic as I
grew up, and I
was in charge
of my siblings. I
hated alcohol and never thought
I’d be an alcoholic.
I got married and started
drinking because I was lonely –
my husband worked a lot. My
drinking pattern progressed and
I became more depressed, then
hooked on antidepressants from
my GP. I had my first cocaine at 30
and it got progressively worse.
I had three children when my
husband asked me for a divorce.
I was drinking in public toilets
and was found guilty of causing
grievous bodily harm with intent.
I was looking at nine years.
I knew going to prison would
save my life. I was taken straight
to healthcare at Bronzefield, very
unwell, drunk and on diazepam
and suffering from pancreatitis.
When I was accepted at Send
Prison, Forward couldn’t wait to
get me onto their RAPt Wing.
I stayed there for five months and
the peer support was amazing. I
thought, ‘that’s what I want
I didn’t trust social services
and police before – I’ve been let
I knew going to
save my life. I was
taken straight to
unwell, drunk and
on diazepam and
down so much. But coming to
East Sutton Park, I was able to
work and build up my trust.
I volunteered and have now
been on an apprenticeship for
seven months. It’s hard work but I
love it and I’m gaining confidence
to work elsewhere. I find it
amazing that I am where I am
and I’m very grateful.
Forward have supported me to
live out my dream. I have my own
flat, my own cat. I am responsible
for my children. I am needed. I’m
on a licence, but I’m trusted to
live my life. DDN
Exercise could become a valuable
part of the treatment plan, says
have recently started to
work with a personal
trainer, which got me
thinking – how much does
exercise form a part of your
treatment plan when seeing
patients? Are we influenced by our
own patterns of behaviour when
considering this, ie if you exercise,
do you recommend it to people?
It’s been at the forefront of
my mind in conversations with
patients. When we consider
exercise and addiction it seems
to be something that is placed on
the backburner when dealing with
significant physical issues – but
does this need to change?
We know that exercise
increases serotonin and dopamine
levels in our brains, creating a
more balanced state of mental
wellbeing. So why don’t we
encourage our addiction patients
in the same way that psychiatric
I asked myself about the last
time I talked with a patient about
exercise, in line with discussing
nutrition. Am I influenced by
my own levels of exercise? Do I
feel competent to recommend
exercise despite the evidence? I
think the answer is clearly yes, and
this needs to change.
The moral of this story is that
there is no other area that I feel I
have to know more about before
I refer to a specialist. If a patient
walks through the door with
coexisting cardiology issues, I
know I’m not the expert and feel
comfortable to assess the markers
and refer on. So I’m going to
challenge myself to do the same
It seems to be
is placed on the
Why don’t we
in the same way
with physiotherapists, sports
psychologists or personal trainers.
With dwindling resources,
am I flogging a dead horse?
Possibly. But what may be more
appropriate is, while we look at
smoking cessation, vaccinations
and nutrition, let’s also consider
the element of exercise and
discuss with GP surgeries the
option of tapping into exercise
on prescription within our gyms.
We could even consider taking it
one step further by connecting
with local gyms and offering some
addiction training, so in unity
we could all increase our skills to
produce better outcomes.
Ishbel Straker is a clinical
director, registered mental health
nurse, independent nurse prescriber
and board member
DEC 2019-JAN 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 21