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New campaign for mental health

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equality for mental health campaign, AVA, gender issues, DV, Mental health services need to be improved – and gender informed.

Mental health equality has been given high profile backing recently after over 200 celebrities backed a campaign to push for mental health to be treated as seriously as other illnesses.

They have joined together to mount a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services.

Among the signatories are Mary Beard, Clare Short, Mariella Frostrup, Miranda Hart, Caroline Lucas, Clare Marx and Frances O’Grady.

And a number of supporters have spoken up about their own experiences with depression, including Ruby Wax and Emma Thompson.

The government has increased overall mental health spending, but the campaign is calling for improvement of access to treatment, as well as challenging the stigma around mental health.

The campaign highlights the lack of access to treatment, with three out of four mentally ill children receiving no treatment at all and concerns that people are moved around too much, including placing children in adult wards.

And the life expectancy for people with mental health problems remains 20 years lower than for the general population.

AVA has welcomed this campaign to improve services, but highlights the need for mental health services to be gender informed.

Research has shown that 69 per cent of women with serious mental health illness have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.

In order to support women, mental health trusts need to adopt a trauma informed approach that recognises the impact of gender-based violence (GBV).

This is especially true when further research has highlighted that GBV is associated with a higher prevalence of severe mental illness and experiencing one form of GBV puts victims at greater risk of experiencing other forms in the course of their lifetime.

AVA’s project ‘promoting recovery in mental health’ (PRIMH) aims to provide suitable support for mental health trusts to help them meet this need.

The links between domestic and sexual violence and mental ill-health are well documented, as is the high prevalence of experiences of abuse amongst mental health service users.

However, research and evidence-based practice has highlighted some of the difficulties faced by mental health services in effectively addressing these links and fully meeting the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence, as well as dealing with perpetrators of domestic violence who use mental health services.

In response to this evidence, the Department of Health awarded AVA funding for a three-year project to support mental health services to improve their responses to both victims and perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence.

Since 2013 the project coordinator has been working with two Mental Health Trusts (Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) to develop and evaluate Trust-wide responses to domestic and sexual violence which encompass both managing risk and focusing on victims’ recovery from experiences of violence and abuse.

Building on the evidence of ‘what works’ from previous initiatives to improve health responses to domestic and sexual violence, AVA proposes to:

Provide expert input to Trust safeguarding, clinical and recovery frameworks to develop holistic responses to domestic and sexual violence, as well as implementing strategies to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence;

Develop and implement clear care pathways around domestic and sexual violence, including building strong relationships with local domestic and sexual violence services.

Create a strategy to implement good practice across all mental health teams;

Mentor team managers/senior practitioners to become domestic and sexual violence champions for their service;

Deliver up to 15 days training to frontline services, focusing specifically on working with both survivors and perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence within mental health services;

Design and deliver train-the-trainer training and develop a domestic and sexual violence competency framework to inform long-term workforce development; and

Involve those using the service to inform and influence service delivery.

To find out about AVA’s other, related, projects, click here.

To sign the Equality4MentalHealth campaign’s petition, click here.

  1. The research on this area is long overdue but they have been too statistical and have not described the therapeutic approach needed. The voluntary sector and the past use of illicit subatances should not be complicating this complex study. In the upcoming NHS review perhaps personal safety of women in psychiatric services and whether they have ever been sexually assaulted should be addressed.

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