As we wind down the month of May we here at Flikshop wanted to take a moment to discuss how families impacted by incarceration maintain their mental health while their loved ones are incarcerated. Coping with the arrest of a family member can be difficult. It can be traumatizing. There could possibly be children involved. What if it’s a mother that is getting arrested and getting sentenced to prison? What if there are questions about a loved one’s arrest that may also implicate a grandmother, who did not have any knowledge of her grandson’s dealings?
These stories are realities for families around the country. And while we’re optimistic about laws being changed that impact technical parole violations, parole being reinstated in certain states, and even cannabis legalization, we wanted to ask the question: How do families cope with a loved one who is incarcerated?
For starters, there are a few resources that we’ve learned about in our research. It actually shocked us with how much data is available, so we had to share this one first. Check out The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) details what family members can do if their loved one is arrested and has a mental health diagnosis or has been mistreated in jail. This was definitely interesting.
But Flikshop wanted to hear from the people that are impacted the most...our customers. One of our customers details how her loved one being locked up for seven years took an extensive toll on her.
“For seven years I lived my life this way, as a woman with an incarcerated mate: a woman who sacrificed my time, money, relationships, and emotional well-being to support someone in jail. And the whole time I felt invisible.”, she confides in Flikshop via Instagram DM.
According to HuffPost, 1 in 4 American women has a family member in prison and carry the burden of having to support their loved ones, other family members, and themselves emotionally and financially. Can you believe that stat? 1 in 4 women have a family member that is incarcerated. How did that ever begin to happen in this country?
A survey conducted by Essie Justice Group revealed that 86 percent of women with incarcerated loved ones face “significant or extreme” strain on their mental health. Data shows this number increases to 94 percent when the incarcerated person is a romantic partner. What does that mean? This means that these women are faced to shoulder the burden of incarceration with the expectation of being superwomen, resilient, determined, and capable of handling anything that comes their way simply because they are the backbone of their families.
This is a tough reality. Should we even celebrate this resilience? Is there a better way?
Our CEO, Marcus Bullock, interviewed one of our customers, Tiffany, about her journey and how she deals with her husband who is incarcerated. For women like Tiffany who chose to commit to her loved one who was already incarcerated, she had to mentally prepare for the moment that she confessed her commitment to her husband, knowing that the majority of the people who cared for her would not likely be supportive of their relationship.
Tiffany admits to feeling judged and attacked for her decision to commit to a relationship with someone who was imprisoned in the beginning. Thankfully she doesn’t carry much of the emotional baggage that she once did at the beginning of her relationship. She admits that she was able to let go of holding on to what others thought about her decision, and left our Marcus Asks IGTV series with three tips that help her manage her mental health while her husband is incarcerated.
Learn how to be comfortable managing your relationships. Tiffany does not believe in sharing certain details of her marriage with family or friends, in hopes that she can maintain healthy relationships with family who are unable to understand her decision.
Communicate often with her husband, and do not be afraid to share the hard conversations with him. Transparency rules in marriage...even if they're incarcerated.
Keep a journal. Keep a record of your feelings, your emotions and thoughts, and even your conversations with your loved one. You’ll love reading about your growth when it’s time to reflect.
From not tending to your self-care to navigating societal stereotypes that often come with shame; the stigma and stereotypes that follow incarcerated couples present many challenges and are littered with obstacles.
It seems to be a common thread that communication and check-ins are critical to ensuring that both parties are doing okay. Also, find your community. There are tons of communities that support people who have an incarcerated loved one. One of our favorites is Strong Prison Wives & Families. There is strength in numbers, and community organizations do a great job of supporting one another, providing resources to families, and advocating for change.
Flikshop continues to support loved ones and their families beyond. Our goal is to keep every person in every cell connected to their incarcerated loved ones every day. We believe in the power of community, love and empathy, and we know that family incarceration takes a toll on all of our mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please seek help from a licensed professional or call NAMI at 1-800-950-NAMI.