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Jailhouse Blues: How To Fight Depression After An Arrest

Handcuffed male prisoner in military uniform praying for help

"Hey, Mister Jailer, will you please, sir, bring me the key?" Lightnin' Hopkins so memorably asks. "I just want you to open the door, cause this ain't no place for me."

In addition to the other damage an arrest causes-jail time, fines, lost jobs-it also takes a horrible toll on mental health. There's an emerging scholarly literature on the effects of arrest and jailing on people. The short version is: It's not good.

Frankly, it's one of the toughest part of my job-seeing people so humiliated or shell-shocked by their arrest, that they can barely function. Sometimes, it even gets in the way of their case. One of the effects of depression, for example, is extreme fatigue. It makes it hard to help a lawyer fight in court if a client can't stay awake and focused during the trial.

If you or someone you love is struggling with those jailhouse blues, consider the following steps to take:

  1. Find a mental health expert. A trained therapist offers not just a sympathetic (and confidential) ear, but often has years of experience in treating depression, anxiety and other goblins.
  2. Remember, you're not alone (part one). First, rely on the support of friends, family, neighbors, churches, that mental health expert and so on. It can make a huge difference.
  3. Remember, you're not alone (part two). Arrest is all too common, but use that as a reminder. You aren't the only one to suffer through this, and you'll be able to get through.
  4. Exercise. Popular fads wax and wane, but one constant in scientific literature is that getting up and moving helps keep the demons at bay.
  5. Meditate. There is an increasing amount of data that finds that meditation can help us refocus, and reduce stress. There are all sorts of websites and podcasts out there that offer guided meditation, so feel free to shop around.
  6. Give yourself a break. Yes, you may well have made a mistake. But, as the old wisdom has it, "To err is human; to forgive, divine."

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