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Barriers to domestic violence disclosure

26 January 2011

Mental health service users are at high risk of domestic violence which is often not detected by mental health services.

A team of scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s and University of Bristol, conducted a qualitative study which for the first time identified barriers to disclosure.

Dr Diana Rose, a Senior Lecturer in User-Led Research at the IoP, said: ‘Our study is the first to our knowledge to examine barriers to disclosure from both a service user and professional perspective. We were able to do this by focusing on service users’ and staffs’ own accounts of the process of disclosure and what they feel facilitates and impedes it.’

The researchers found a number of factors put off service users from sharing their experiences: fear of consequences; fear of Social Services involvement and consequent child protection proceedings; fear that disclosure would not be believed; fear of further violence and feelings of shame.

Mental health professionals cited role boundaries, competency and confidence as barriers to successful disclosure and both groups reported that enquiry and disclosure were facilitated by a supportive and trusting relationship between the individual and professional.

Professor Louise Howard, Head of Section of Women’s Mental Health, said: ‘Our study highlights the need for training on domestic violence for all mental health professionals so that they can identify victims of violence and help them appropriately.’

In England and Wales domestic violence is a major public health issue with 20% of women reporting physical and sexual assault by a former or current partner. Domestic violence has been shown to exacerbate psychotic symptoms.

‘Barriers and facilitators of disclosures of domestic violence by mental health service users: qualitative study’ is published in this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry. To read more, please follow the link.

Professor Howard is a member of the Department of Health’s Violence Against Women and Children Implementation Group:

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