Statement of purpose The disproportionate incarceration rate of Black men in the United States (US) is associated with a multiplicity of individual and community-level health outcomes. This review aims to evaluate the state of scientific knowledge on the mental health of Black men who have experienced incarceration and identify how Black men released from incarceration describe their mental health upon re-entry.
Methods/Approach This systematic mixed studies review used a sequential explanatory design incorporating quantitative and qualitative research. In June 2020, PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, and Criminal Justice Abstracts were systematically searched. Of 538 articles identified, 22 met inclusion criteria as peer-reviewed original research, published in English from (2010–2020), relevant to the mental health of formerly incarcerated Black men in the US.
Results Quantitative findings demonstrated significant associations between incarceration history and poor mental health, operationalized as higher levels of psychological distress, increased severity of depressive and PTSD symptoms, and delayed treatment of psychosis. Factors associated with this relationship included discrimination, negative police encounters, solitary confinement, and difficulty finding housing and employment. Four themes emerged from the qualitative synthesis including: (1) Social Determinants of Mental Health (2) Pushing Through Emotional Despair (3) Challenges to Health Care Engagement and (4) Gender, Race, and Intersectionality. Black men recently released from incarceration also described neighborhood violence as a contributor to poor mental health and barrier to mental healthcare.
Conclusions This review affirms the pervasiveness of mental health concerns in formerly incarcerated Black men but illuminated several gaps in knowledge needed to support individual and community-level interventions.
Significance Unmet mental health needs are associated with a multiplicity of injury and violence concerns including substance abuse and suicidality. Addressing gaps in current understandings of the mental health of formerly incarcerated Black men will strengthen opportunities for evidence-based interventions.
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