Mental health interventions for individuals with serious mental illness in the criminal legal system: a systematic review

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BMC psychiatry


BACKGROUND: Globally, individuals with mental illness get in contact with the law at a greater rate than the general population. The goal of this review was to identify and describe: (1) effectiveness of mental health interventions for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) who have criminal legal involvement; (2) additional outcomes targeted by these interventions; (3) settings/contexts where interventions were delivered; and (4) barriers and facilitating factors for implementing these interventions.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted to summarize the mental health treatment literature for individuals with serious mental illness with criminal legal involvement (i.e., bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder). Searches were conducted using PsychINFO, Embase, ProQuest, PubMed, and Web of Science. Articles were eligible if they were intervention studies among criminal legal involved populations with a mental health primary outcome and provided description of the intervention.

RESULTS: A total of 13 eligible studies were identified. Tested interventions were categorized as cognitive/behavioral, community-based, interpersonal (IPT), psychoeducational, or court-based. Studies that used IPT-based interventions reported clinically significant improvements in mental health symptoms and were also feasible and acceptable. Other interventions demonstrated positive trends favoring the mental health outcomes but did not show statistically and clinically significant changes. All studies reported treatment outcomes, with only 8 studies reporting both treatment and implementation outcomes.

CONCLUSION: Our findings highlight a need for more mental health research in this population. Studies with randomized design, larger sample size and studies that utilize non-clinicians are needed.

Medical Subject Headings

Humans; Mental Health; Depressive Disorder, Major; Criminals; Mental Disorders; Bipolar Disorder

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