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DRUMBEAT improves mental health of Western Australian prisoners

Date posted: 1 August 2014

An independent evaluation, by the University of Western Australia (UWA), of an innovative program trialled in Western Australian (WA) prisons has found a group-based program that combines hand drumming with social and emotional learning can improve the mental health of prisoners.

A research team led by Associate Professor Lisa Wood and Assistant Professor Karen Martin, based at UWA's School of Population Health, recently completed a nine month evaluation of the Holyoake DRUMBEAT program which was run in seven WA prisons - Acacia, Bandyup, Boronia, Bunbury, Casuarina, Karnet and Wooroloo.

They found that prisoners had significantly higher average mental wellbeing after the DRUMBEAT program and this improvement was evident for some of these prisoners for three months after the program.

In particular, the study found that DRUMBEAT had a positive impact on these prisoners' emotions and emotional regulation including anger management, capacity to talk with others, social skills and self-worth. In addition, after the program, prisoners reported they felt more included in a group, connected with a community and they said they had a better ability to build relationships.

Assistant Professor Martin said there were significant improvements in mental wellbeing amongst the prisoners, both immediately after the program and in post program interviews and a follow up survey. Prisoners who completed the program also had increased resilience and lower levels of psychological distress. 'The underlying philosophy of DRUMBEAT helps prisoners to feel valued, listened to and respected in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way,' she said.

Holyoake received funding from The Mental Health Commission (WA) and The Federal Department of Health as part of the Closing the gap initiative for the WA prison DRUMBEAT sessions, with the program focusing on Aboriginal prisoners who made up more than half of the participants. This evaluation was funded in part by Holyoake. Both Dr Lisa Wood and Dr Karen Martin are funded by Healthway Research Fellowships.

Source: University of Western Australia


Last updated: 27 August 2014
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