COMMENDEE 2017-18: Samira Mohamed is a teacher at HMP/YOI Forest Bank, a private Category B men’s prison in Greater Manchester. In developing and implementing the ‘M-powerment’ programme, she has succeeded in helping some of the most vulnerable people in the system. By drawing them out from isolation and a risk of self-harm while tackling stigma attached to mental health issues, she has improved their lives in a number of impressive ways.
[Summary of original nomination and supporting materials submitted to the Trust]
Samira describes the powerful ethos underpinning the M-powerment programme:
The power of contact:
Contact encourages communication
Communication encourages feelings
Feelings encourage development
Development encourages change
Change encourages empowerment.
Initial nominator and Education Manager at Forest Bank, Helen Timm, describes Samira’s work in the last three years with some of the most vulnerable and fragile members of society. “Many have serious physical conditions such as cancer, and mental health issues are an ever present challenge. These prisoners are very hard to reach due to the issues they are facing whilst incarcerated. Many do not want to be allowed out of their cells, speak to others or engage in any way that could be beneficial to them.”
Samira helped design a pleasant day room where offenders with physical and mental health problems could come together to relax, watch TV, play games and, most importantly for their well being and personal progress, take part in therapeutic activities that have been designed with their wellbeing in mind.
Her programme, says Helen, “draws patients out of their hospital beds or cells and out into the day room. They are very difficult to reach at first; shy or reluctant to interact with others. With Samira’s gentle approach and sunny disposition, learners are slowly integrated into the programme. The results of the programme are staggering. We have witnessed some of our most troubled learners emerge from their shells and interact with others in a positive way, take part in activities and generally display improved behaviour, vocalising how much better they feel. Some learners who have been particularly challenging have calmed down and are finding ways to control their negative emotions.”
Samira has extended the approach to involve families, which is “a great relief to family members and it encourages and comforts the learners to know that their loved ones are involved”, says Helen.
Butler Trust Local Champion and Forest Bank Communications Manager, Andrew O’Mara, explains that Samira has involved other departments to deliver additional services such as gym sessions, chaplaincy, story telling session and library services, describing how her “massive pastoral support” has helped 182 people since April 2014.
Andrew explains that there were wider benefits for the prison, too, when Samira included other offenders who also didn’t interact well with their peers. He added that:
“She is hard working, enthusiastic and very passionate about the programme and the benefits her programme has on the prisoners that are suffering from poor mental health. Samira works fantastically with other departments within the prison to ensure that prisoners are signposted to the correct organisations to continue their prison journey in a positive manner.”
Samira has a passion for eradicating the negative stigma surrounding mental health and educating others about it. She notes that her work has knock-on consequences for staff, too. “A prisoner that is continually self-harming is not only detrimental to the prisoner, but also to the nurses that have to attend and the officers that have to deal with varying levels of self-harm. To witness these regularly can be distressing for staff, and potentially affect the mental wellbeing of staff.”
A dozen or so testimonials by offenders also supported the nomination, each citing improvements in the way they were now dealing with their issues as a result of the programme.