Enhancing Mental Health clinicians to spot family violence

Women who suffer from a disability, such as severe mental health challenges, are twice as likely to suffer from family violence.  It is important that staff are trained to recognise and respond to family violence in public mental health services.

Mental health family violence
Dr Melissa Perakis and Meg De Melo

Social Work in Mental Health have developed a staff training package and prompt cards for ready reference by clinicians. The team provided family violence education sessions in each area in Mental Health – including inpatient, community and residential – educating the service about evidence-based family violence knowledge and how to identify and respond.

Senior Social Worker Meg De Melo says research revealed that many clinicians were unaware that the concept of family violence was much broader than just physical violence.

‘Developing this training package and introducing the prompt cards has enabled social workers to raise awareness and build clinician confidence in identifying family violence and taking appropriate steps.’

‘Asking appropriate questions, being a compassionate ally, and knowing what services are available and how to access them, are really useful skills for mental health clinicians,’ says Meg De Melo.

So far, more than 100 staff have received the training. Evaluation has shown that awareness and skills in responding to family violence have improved, which could provide positive outcomes for consumers who have been subjected to family violence.

The prompt cards are produced by Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA supported by the Australian Department of Health, and the content developed by St Vincent’s Mental Health is now being used to up-skill clinicians and community workers state-wide.

‘It was excellent to partner with VAADA, as they have a history of producing evidence-based and practice-relevant prompt card resources,’ says Dr Melissa Petrakis, Senior Research Fellow in Mental Health.

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