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'They are not forgotten' | Prioritizing mental health in prisons

If you have a loved one behind bars, it's suggested that you continue to keep in contact with them to remind them that they are not alone.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The holiday season can be challenging for many, but the weight is often heavier for those who are incarcerated.

FOP Lodge 77 spokesperson Tracy Dotson spokesperson said there was a significant number of suicide attempts at Louisville Metro Department of  Corrections (LMDC) this time last year. He said several people have tried to take their own lives this year, too.

"Depression, incidents in our personal lives - imagine how those affect people on the outside who can get up and go to Walmart or go to the movies if they choose," Dotson said. "Imagine how that magnifies and complicates things for an incarcerated individual."

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Lindsay Carney, a therapist in Louisville, said suicide rates are increasing in general, but the prison system is seeing even higher numbers, particularly due to isolation.

"One of the most contributing factors to that is people that may not feel seen or heard in what they're dealing with," she said.

According to Dotson, LMDC currently has over 100 job openings and will be getting rid of roles that solely focus on monitoring those who may be in danger of harming themselves. With the lack of staffing, Dotson said it may be difficult to manage an already hard time this holiday season.

If you have a loved one behind bars, it's suggested that you continue to keep in contact with them by writing letters or contacting a department head to check in on them.

"Be sure that the person knows that they are being thought of and cared about outside of the facility that they are in. That they are not forgotten about," Carney said.

Contact reporter Gabrielle Harmon at gharmon@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@_GabbyHarmonTV) and Facebook.

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