Domestic abuse: Female survivors ‘three times more likely’ to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
‘Significant public health burden’ of leaving abuse survivors unsupported as study shows anxiety, depression and serious psychological conditions increased
Domestic abuse could play a much larger part in the UK’s mental healthcrisis than first thought after a study found women who experienced abuse were three times as likely to develop a serious psychological disorder.
The landmark study, led by University of Birmingham researchers, is the first to show schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as more common forms of mental illness like depression and anxiety, are increased among abuse victims.
But the findings also show abuse is significantly under-reported in NHS records, and this could undermine efforts to address patients’ mental health needs or direct them to support.
Estimates based on national Crime Survey data suggest one in four women has experienced some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, but in GP records only 0.5 per cent of women have this recorded.
“The results show the significant public health burden of mental illness in this country,” said Dr Joht Singh Chandan, one of the study’s authors, at a briefing in London.
“That elevation of three times [increased risk], if we think almost a quarter of women in this country have experienced domestic abuse, we’re talking big numbers in terms of mental health demand in this country.”
For the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the team used medical records from 18,547 UK women whose medical records made a note of abuse between 1995 and 2017.
They compared them to 74,188 women of a similar age profile who had no record of abuse.
The study found that that half of the women in the abuse group had a mental health diagnosis (49.5 per cent) compared to 24.6 per cent of women without a record of abuse at the start of the study.
When they removed these cases and looked at new diagnoses of mental illness over the 22 year study they found anxiety disorders were diagnosed at twice the rate among the group who had experienced abuse.
Diagnosis of depression, or “serious mental illness”, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, appeared at three times the rate.
The authors said the relationship was “not simple or straight forward” and mental illness may make someone more likely to become a victim of abuse as well as abuse causing psychological disorders.
They were not able to answer questions about the effects of abuse in men, because these are cases are even more poorly recorded.
But more needs to be done to identify and support those who have experienced abuse.
“We know that in primary care and [with] staff at GP practice there is often a lot that can be done for people who have experienced domestic abuse, but it’s not being highlighted to them,” Dr Chandan said.
Encouraging the police to share reports of domestic abuse with the NHS would be one way to improve reporting, as well as policies to prevent abuse, and earlier intervention for those who are victims.
The findings also raise the question of whether there should be more screening of young women being treated for mental health disorders.
“Do we need to think about asking them questions relating to their abuse?” Dr Chandan said.
“We hear everyday from women with mental health problems who have struggled to get the support that they need,” said Vicki Nash from the mental health charity Mind, who called on government to act on women’s mental health and domestic abuse.
“Too many women are not having their needs met by mental health services, which are also not using a trauma-informed approach.”
Original Article available here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/women-mental-health-schizophrenia-bipolar-disorder-domestic-abuse-a8947776.html
Councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse, Crisis found.
Domestic abuse survivors are being forced to choose between sleeping on the streets or returning to their abusers because of local authority rules, a damning report has warned.
Each year, councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse after deeming them not vulnerable enough for help, a joint investigation by Crisis and parliament’s group for ending homelessness revealed on Thursday.
This is because – under the current system – not everyone escaping domestic abuse is considered “priority need” for help finding permanent housing, they said.
“It’s beyond heart-breaking that people fleeing for their lives are being forced to choose between homelessness or returning to their abusers because the services that should have found them a safe home don’t consider them a priority,” said Labour MP Neil Coyle, who leads parliament’s group for ending homelessness.
“The current system of asking survivors to provide evidence of their vulnerability is incredibly insensitive and traumatic, and often impossible to do.”
MPs have heard “horrifying stories” of victims being asked to return home to gather evidence of their abuse, Coyle added.
One in five of Crisis’ female members have been made homeless by domestic abuse.
Earlier this month, Theresa May announced plans to ensure all abuse survivors have access to support in emergency refuges – but campaigners are calling for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be extended to guarantee victims a more permanent home.
Rebecca Pritchard, director of services at Crisis, said: “It’s simply not good enough that survivors are being forced to sleep rough or are ending up stuck in temporary accommodation unable to move on with their lives because they’re being refused help to find a safe settled home.”
The report comes on the same day the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman called on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council to pay a domestic abuse victim £500 in compensation after it refused to accept a homelessness application from her and her children.
A government spokesperson said: “We recently announced that for the first time ever, councils will be legally required to provide vital support in secure accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire pledged over £90 million for this.
“This will end the variation in support and ensure that all families are able to recover and overcome their experiences.”
Original Article available here: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/domestic-abuse-homelessness-council-crisis_uk_5ceea047e4b07666546f4c4c?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACsBYDk2HIByC94HPNNvVNWyTNKtYYMCzs4snxbdacOg_VNPhjDvTkfn8RKOoPtKYb9CGmpZ0Mdlk5JdQGmVAu9miypHMyrhlrq0BgL8QeF8VlU3Mr2KZxfmn4AhaIR96CNXsYV1mKaGb6K0bYwuWiz8bf7v-V01ujhEbamB6KNC
Much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases, writes Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales
As a former family law solicitor, your recent article on how the family courts treat victims of domestic abuse and their children (15 May) struck a chord with me. As you point out, research by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme found that four children have been killed in the past five years by parents with a history of domestic violence who were given access to them by the courts.
These tragic figures highlight a failure in the system. While the government’s draft domestic abuse bill marks an important step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases.
The government’s cuts to legal aid in 2012 have left many victims of abuse unrepresented in court, often unable to argue their case. Updating the legal aid means test and reinstating legal aid for early advice will help to ensure that domestic abuse is identified at the earliest possible point and both victims and their children receive the access to justice they deserve.
President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Original Article available here: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/may/28/victims-of-domestic-abuse-need-legal-aid