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Speaking out against domestic violence

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Professor Louise Howard, Head of Section of Women’s Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s, has spoken at the launch of a report on domestic violence and mental health by the Southall Black Sisters, a not-for-profit organisation established in 1979 to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women.  She shared a platform with the Rt Hon Anne Milton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health.

Professor Howard discussed the effect of domestic violence on women’s mental health, with an emphasis on how mental health professionals can respond, as they are often the first point of contact for those needing help.

Some of the key recommendations made by Professor Howard include: training on safe assessment and treatment needed for mental health assessments; care pathways with appropriate referrals; and access to psychological support appropriate to the victim’s cultural needs so they feel empowered to make choices that are right for them.

Southall Black Sisters was the ideal setting for the discussion; its purpose is to highlight violence against Asian and African-Caribbean women and seeks to empower the victims of domestic violence through campaigning for adequate services for victims to escape violent and unstable homes.

Professor Howard said in her speech: ‘I trained in medicine in the 1980s when violence against women wasn’t talked about. There was also very little knowledge or work being done within and on behalf of black, minority and ethnic women.   As a student, I heard about the work that Southall Black Sisters do and am therefore delighted to share a platform with them to discuss how we can improve the response of mental health services to domestic violence experienced by service users.”

The talk coincided with the launch of ‘Safe and Sane’, a comprehensive manual for victims of domestic violence and mental health practitioners, and International Women’s day (8 March).

Professor Howard and colleagues have recently had research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, to read the paper, please follow the link.

Find out more about the work of the women’s health, with a focus on the Linking Abuse and Recovery through Advocacy (LARA).

Follow the link to find out more about the Southall Black Sisters.

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