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Project to improve response to domestic and sexual abuse

25 November 2014

C&I launched a new project to ensure staff know how to respond when incidents of domestic and sexual abuse are reported.

Over 100 people attended the launch of AR-DSA  - Awareness & Response to Domestic & Sexual Abuse - which coincided with White Ribbon Day, on November 25.

The project will ensure mental health practitioners know what to do when people disclose domestic and sexual abuse issues during an assessment and give them a guidance on how to assist the person.

C&I's Women's Lead, Shirley McNicholas, said,  "Staff are committed to this important issue and want to know how they can get involved  with the project and want the training to improve their practice and response. We have to challenge ourselves and recognise that most of our service users , men and women , have experienced trauma of some kind which has caused or contributed to developing mental health problems. We have to engage with this if we are to give hope and aim for recovery.

"Multiple studies have shown that around 70% of women who use mental health services have experienced some for of domestic or sexual abuse. Studies without our own trust recently have shown these figures are even higher. Domestic abuse is a mental health issue and traumatic experiences are increasingly recognised as the underlying cause of mental health problems including psychosis.

"Around 65% of domestic violence survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder, 27% of women with a mental health problem and 12% of men have experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months."

One of our service users, who wishes to remain anonymous, also supports the campaign.

"Staff can do a lot of damage if they ask the wrong questions or if vital bits of information are overlooked. This project is close to my heart because I have been abused. All of us have a voice and I have a fighting spirit, for those who don't have the same confidence, I'm proud to say, regular, appropriate, up to date training is needed. It is necessary. This training will help people  overcome their issues, it will change the experiences they would have otherwise have had."

The project aims toprovide on-going support in care plans and follow referral pathways to internal specialist services or local domestic and sexual violence services to make sure the service user remains at the centre of our approach.

Dr Eileen Walsh, clinical psychologist, from the traumatic stress clinic, stated around 50% of the service users they see are traumatised due to domestic abuse. This includes clients who have experienced female genital mutilation and again stated that staff have to take on board the trauma and long term physical health problems for those who come to seek help from our services.

She explained, "Most of our service-users have experienced violence or other forms of abuse. Their results  can range from anxiety, flashbacks  and nightmares to suicidal thoughts and self harm.

"Violence and abuse can have a long-lasting impact on an individual's relationships with others, even in the absence of diagnosable mental health problems.

"However most service users do not get access to the traumatic stress disorder clinic but have a range of symptoms and issues due to trauma. It is the duty of all workers in all teams to engage with these issues as domestic and sexual abuse is a mental health issue."

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