Face to face care has been more limited recently so it’s critical we identify where patients experiencing mental ill health may be at risk of domestic violence. Developing training and strengthening links with local domestic abuse partnerships helps us support women with known mental ill health who are in a vulnerabe position and may need additional support

Amina Bristow, Perinatal Mental Health Programme Lead for the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership

A recent UN report has found that cases of domestic abuse increased by 20% during the first coronavirus pandemic lockdown. With many victims trapped at home with their abuser, the UN has described the global rise in domestic violence cases as a “shadow pandemic” alongside Covid-19.

Separate findings from Women’s Aid have shown that about two thirds of women in England living with domestic abuse have said their ordeal worsened during the UK’s first lockdown.

With Christmas fast approaching, a time when we could expect to see a rise in cases, and with the pandemic exacerbating the issue of domestic violence, it’s vitally important that this winter victims feel supported to report domestic abuse either directly to the police, or to a support organisation or health professional.

In Humber, Coast and Vale the Perinatal Mental Health Team, supporting women with mental ill health during pregnancy or during the first year following birth, have taken positive action to respond to this issue, by developing specialised training to help staff identify potential abuse, pick up on subtle signs of domestic violence, and ultimately to help women gain the confidence to speak up and seek vital support.

During October, training was delivered to 35 perinatal mental health support staff in Humber, Coast and Vale (98.5% of the workforce), including nursery nurses, speciality doctors, clinical psychologists and specialist midwifes. The training was delivered in partnership with Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, and Hull City Council to staff across Hull, East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. Last year the team saw 771 referrals into the service across the region, and it is hoped the training will directly benefit those at risk or those who are currently victims of abuse.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence, a campaign encouraging organisations to train staff who might witness domestic violence, runs until 10th December, and the training we have developed highlights the importance the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership Perinatal Mental Health team places on providing vital health and safety support to patients.

Face to face care has been more limited in recent months so it’s critical we identify where patients experiencing mental ill health may be at risk of domestic violence, and particularly over the Christmas period. Developing training and strengthening links with local domestic abuse partnerships helps us support women with known mental ill health that are in a vulnerable position and who may need additional specialist support.

Feedback from staff who have undergone the training and from patients accessing the perinatal mental health service has been very positive. There has been praise for the high quality specialist mental health care which patients see is being delivered closer to home, and women have reported having an overall positive experience from more joined up services which focus on their wellbeing and their recovery.

One member of the team who has taken part in the training is Katy Morley, who is a Team Leader and Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Liaison Nurse at Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust. She told me: “The training has really given me a fresh perspective and helped raise my awareness of domestic violence and the signs to look out for. We know rates of domestic abuse have sadly risen this year, and many women are in fear of coming forward. I now feel more confident that the support I provide will have a positive impact and that my knowledge can support and protect perinatal mental health patients in our communities.”

Clinicians from the Perinatal Mental Health team advise anyone wanting to report domestic abuse to call 999 if it’s an emergency or if someone is in immediate danger or you can visit this Government web page to find details of organisations that can provide help and advice about domestic abuse.

For more information about perinatal mental health conditions and the Humber, Coast and Vale perinatal mental health team visit www.everymummatters.com.

Leo Stevens

Author Leo Stevens

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