Govasli says that his partner struggled mentally after his release, and that he eventually wanted someone to talk to. He was put on medication by his GP, but according to her without any kind of follow-up.
“Out of sheer desperation, he called the police and said he was going to blow up the house if he didn’t get help. That’s when he was taken into custody,” Govasli said.
“After first receiving a summons, and then being denied treatment at the district psychiatric centre, he took his life in prison,” she says.
“This has been so hard and heavy that every day is a struggle.
Head of department at the Department of North, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Clinic at the University Hospital of North Norway, Vemund Nordnes Myrbakk,
says they cannot comment on the presentation.
“We consider it important in any case that relatives are allowed to express themselves from their point of view. We are not allowed to comment on information from relatives in individual cases as this would violate the duty of confidentiality, he writes in an email to NRK.
– Extremely high incidence of suicide
“The incidence of suicide in Norwegian prisons is extremely high. In previous studies comparing different countries, Norway has been ranked as the country with the highest incidence of suicide among prisoners.
So says researcher at the Centre for Addiction Research, Seraph, Anne Bukten.
In the study, which is part of the
PriSUD project, the researchers used registry data from 96,856 people over a period of 17 years, from 2000 through 2016. The figures show that 62 people took their own lives while in prison, while 749 killed themselves after release.
Most suicides were committed by men. Being convicted of a serious crime is also an important risk factor,” says Bukten.
“It is inmates who have committed serious crimes, especially homicides, inmates serving time in closed wards with a high level of security, and inmates in custody, who have the highest risk of committing suicide while in prison.
In addition to the period of detention, the risk of suicide is particularly high immediately after imprisonment and immediately after release.
Calls for dialogue
Lill Karine Govasli says she has hardly had any dialogue with the correctional services after her partner killed herself, and that she has fought for many months to gain access to documents in the case.
“I’m still doing it, and I’ve used a lawyer.
After several rejections, she will now appeal the case to the Parliamentary Ombud.
What kind of follow-up would you like from the correctional service?
– More information about the death. One door after another has been closed when I’ve tried to communicate. And that has made this much worse, and much more difficult,” she said.
The man’s sister also says the whole affair is distressing. (NRK has chosen to anonymise her for the sake of the deceased).
“My brother didn’t get the right health care – fast enough. I have understood that medical records that one has with a GP are not automatically transferred to the correctional services. This has meant that a lot of important documentation about my brother’s state of mind has not been read. Only oral briefings from his GP are available, she said.
Unit manager at the Correctional Service Nordland, Mette Moe, says she cannot comment on the specific incident, due to statutory confidentiality related to person and case, but says:
“Gp records are something patients/inmates must ask for to be transferred, as is done elsewhere in society. The records are then not transferred to the Correctional Service, but to the municipal health service, which is responsible for providing inmates with health care.
“What can you do to better look after the bereaved of people who kill themselves in prison?”
“The needs of next of kin after such tragic events are very different from person to person. Through dialogue, we try to be on the supply side as far as possible, but must also comply with the legal provisions regarding what information can be shared with relatives,” says Moe.
– Increased focus on risk
Johan Lothe is the general manager of the Wayback Foundation, which works to help inmates return to society. He believes that the follow-up of inmates who are struggling mentally must be improved.
“We have been involved in designing an admission interview in collaboration with the correctional service and health, but the follow-up after these conversations is clearly not good enough. It’s hard to accept that when you’re in a prison that’s under surveillance, that you’re able to kill yourself, it’s absolutely terrible.
CALLS FOR BETTER FOLLOW-UP: “The follow-up after the admission interviews in prisons must be improved,” says Johan Lothe, general manager of the Wayback Foundation. PHOTO: PRIVATE
The Directorate of Correctional Services says they have routines for identifying the risk of self-harm and suicide in new inmates.
“Any suicide is a suicide too much, including what happens behind bars. So says Department Director for Prevention, Restitution and Security in the Directorate of Correctional Services, Heidi Bottolfs.
Heidi Bottolfs of the Directorate of Correctional Services says all staff are trained to detect suicide signs, but that it is the health authorities who are responsible for the inmates’ health. PHOTO: TRYGVE INDRELID / TRYGVE INDRELID
“We continue to have an increased focus on identifying risks, we continue to increase the skills of our staff, everyone is trained to recognize suicide signs, and we need to reinforce the presence and treatment of mentally ill inmates,” she said.
Bottolfs also says that it is the health authorities in Norway that are responsible for the inmates’ health, and that it is the specialist health service and the municipality that must offer treatment for more serious mental disorders. A more vulnerable group
Previous studies have shown that the countries where prisons few, such as Norway, have higher rates of suicide in prisons.
Researcher Anne Bukten believes there are several reasons for the high incidence. She refers to extensive use of solitary confinement in Norwegian prisons, and a different composition of inmates than before.
“To put it bluntly, it can be said that the father of the family who has been driving while drunk does not go to prison, but is serving time with an electronic foot shackle. Therefore, the group that goes to prison will have more substance abuse problems and mental disorders, which makes them a more vulnerable group,” she says.