IRISi is a second-tier organisation specialising in developing holistic programmes of support including training and providing a clear referral pathway for healthcare professionals to improve the identification and response to Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse (D&SVA). Both our programmes, IRIS and ADViSE, respectively aimed at GPs and clinicians working in sexual health clinics, highlight the intrinsic relation between D&SVA and mental health: victims and survivors often present with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other serious symptoms. This co-relation is well documented by many studies, such as those recently highlighted by Women’s Aid in their “Deserve to be Heard” campaign. Joining Mental Health Awareness Week in 2023, IRISi will share some of the results of these reports to amplify the importance of all healthcare professionals being properly trained to identify and respond to D&SVA signals.
Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “All too often, women experiencing abuse don’t reach out for support for fear of not being believed. This is even more challenging for those struggling with their mental health because of the double taboo around domestic abuse and mental health. It is so important that healthcare professionals have specialist training to identify and respond to the signs of domestic abuse – so that when women and children do come into contact with services, they receive a response tailored to their specific needs. Women’s Aid’s Deserve To Be Heard campaign is calling for specialist, regular training to be undertaken by all healthcare professionals, including mental health practitioners – so that they have the expertise to spot the signs of abuse, and offer the meaningful support that women and children need to heal.”
For Medina Johnson, Chief Executive at IRISi, the Women’s Aid campaign is timely and 100% aligned with IRISi’s main purpose. “Our vision is a world in which gender-based violence is consistently recognised and addressed as a health issue. We work to ensure that healthcare professionals are ready and prepared to see the big picture, especially when sitting with patients who have been presenting multiple conditions, which we know for the majority will be mental health related. In our experience, when healthcare practitioners are trained and supported, GP consultations can offer a unique opportunity for victims and survivors of D&SVA to get the support they need. Sexual health clinics are equally powerful in this sense, especially because they reach patients from diverse populations and vulnerable groups”.
IRIS and ADViSE training sessions both present alarming figures on the relation between DA and Mental Health. Data collected over the last few years show that 77% of women accessing specialist-support services in the UK presented with PTSD symptoms, while 72% showed signs of depression and 70% suffered from anxiety. We also know that women who have experienced DA are 6.5 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Please click here to access the report “Are you listening? 7 Pillars for a survivor-led approach to mental health support”, launched by Women’s Aid in 2022.
You can also Watch the animation below, “Are you Listening?”, produced as part of the campaign “Deserve to Be Heard”: