GUIDELINES that could help GPs and health workers recognise potential signs of domestic violence and abuse could help save lives of women and children in Birmingham.
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s safeguarding team regularly see women at risk of violence or cruelty in their own homes, with mental health issues – which may be linked to drink or drug problems, often developed as a coping strategy.
More than 30,000 children in Birmingham either experience or witness domestic violence, and their lives – and their mothers’ - could be saved if frontline health workers raised the issue with patients they believe are at risk.
The guidelines were launched on International Women’s Day (Monday, March 8), and aim to give health professionals confidence to question women who may be at risk.
Liz Mayne, the national lead on establishing routine enquiry of abuse in mental health, said: “This is an excellent example of multi-agency working to address and reduce the incidence of domestic violence and related problems.”
The health trust’s domestic violence spokeswoman Lynne Johnson added: “This is never an easy subject to bring up but we know there is a link between domestic violence, mental health and drug/alcohol problems. To acknowledge this will ensure patients follow appropriate care pathways and interventions, with a collaborative approach across all relevant agencies. It’s clear many develop addictions through substances they use to cope, but if healthcare professionals had the confidence to ask about potential abuse at assessment, lives could be saved.”
Women who experience domestic violence are 15 times more likely to use alcohol and nine times more likely to turn to drugs, than women with no history of abuse . They also face a significantly higher risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.