Mental health and domestic violence: 'I call it symptoms of abuse'
AuthorHumphreys, C; Thiara, R
Source TitleThe British Journal of Social Work
PublisherOXFORD UNIV PRESS
University of Melbourne Author/sHumphreys, Cathy
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsHumphreys, C. & Thiara, R. (2003). Mental health and domestic violence: 'I call it symptoms of abuse'. BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, 33 (2), pp.209-226. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/33.2.209.
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Research evidence now clearly shows a direct link between women's experiences of domestic violence and heightened rates of depression, trauma symptoms, and self-harm. A research project based in Women's Aid outreach services provides further evidence of women's experiences of severe emotional distress. However, their experiences of mental health services were often found to be negative. A number of practices within the medical model of mental health were unhelpful including: the lack of recognition of trauma or provision of trauma services; making the abuser invisible through focusing on the woman's mental health reified from her experiences of abuse; blaming the victim; offering medication rather than counselling support; the negative, consequent effects on child contact and child protection proceedings if the woman is labelled with mental health problems. Alternatively, women found services, often in the voluntary sector, helpful when they provided the following interventions: helping women name domestic violence; actively asking about the abuse; attending to safety planning; responding to women's specialist needs; and actively working with women to recover from abuse experiences. Support for her children was also seen as very helpful. Implications for practice include the commissioning of further services in the voluntary sector, addressing the inadequate response within the medical model, and increasing the sensitivity of responses to women's emotional distress across all sectors.
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