Restorative justice and mental illness : combating the "spider syndrome"

Ania Dwornik
This study explores the experiences and perspectives of three restorative justice (RJ) practitioners who processed cases involving service users with serious and persistent mental illness. Participants were recruited in the United Kingdom with the help of restorative justice contacts in London, England. The three practitioners who came forward took part in one semi-structured interview that lasted approximately one hour. A descriptive framework was used and emerging themes were coded. Research
more » ... indings show that personal contact along with mental health education appeared to increase participants' willingness to process RJ cases with service users who have serious and persistent mental illness, due to a subsequent reduction in stigmatizing thoughts and behaviours. The latter are components of what one of the participants referred to as the "Spider Syndrome": fears and misconceptions that occur due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. This, along with participants' own recommendations, suggests that mental health training which focuses specifically on skills and raising awareness, in combination with increased exposure to individuals who have serious mental illness, could be an important contributor to enhancing practitioner skill and increasing the use of RJ with such service users. Findings also suggest that restorative justice can be used as a stigma-reducing tool, both at the practitioner and service user level. These insights may hold important implications for social work, mental health and development of practice in the field of restorative justice.
doi:10.14288/1.0072145 fatcat:magagrwsxfbqffpfmfkjmc5kpq