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Arch Hellen Med, 27(6), November-December 2010, 944-952


Stress, burnout, mental health and coping strategies among the staff of Greek correctional institutions

Department of Sociology, National School of Public Health, Athens, Greece

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was the documentation of the mental health status, the degree of stress and professional burnout, and the coping strategies of employees in Greek correctional institutions.

METHOD Of 867 employees in 13 correctional institutions who were invited to participate in the study 244 responded (response rate: 28.14%), completing Greek versions of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28), the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Ways of Coping Scale and a demographic questionnaire.

RESULTS Most of the employees, although they had not wished to work as correctional officers, stated that they were satisfied with their job. Regarding their mental health, the GHQ cut-off point was 4.93, indicating a marginal incidence of mental disorder; women were more burdened than men in relation to the total GHQ and its sub-scales. Stress levels were moderate and more than half of employees recorded high levels of depersonalisation and even more had a low sense of personal achievement. Concerning coping strategies, women more than men used the avoidance/escape strategy, while men stated that they tended to seek social support.

CONCLUSIONS Despite the lay opinion that correctional officers may be unhappy with their job, the staff who participated in this study reported being satisfied with the employment. It appears, however that correctional institutions as working places create a burden on the staff mental health, although marginally, and to a greater degree in the female staff. This study provided the descriptive background as the starting point for applying educational programmes for the employees of the correctional institutions in order to help them to increase their professional skills and improve their progress within the Greek correctional system.

Key words: Burnout, Correctional institutions, Mental health, Stress.

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