Mental health concern over crime victims

Woman with head in hands 40% of people treated for violence-related injuries suffer mental health issues, says the professor

More should be done to support the mental health needs of victims of violence, new guidance by a health expert has said.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd from Cardiff University said victims of crime are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance misuse.

The guidance was published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on Wednesday.

It has been backed by the Victim Support charity.

The charity which helps people who have been victims of crime in England and Wales said greater collaboration is needed by agencies to identify those who need support.

Start Quote

...Mental health problems that are inflicted are often more serious and long-lasting than... physical injuries”

End Quote Prof Jonathan Shepherd Cardiff University

Prof Shepherd, chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Cardiff University, has been involved in research on the effects of violence-related injuries treated at hospitals.

"Having treated people injured by violence for many years, I'm convinced that the mental health problems that are inflicted are often more serious and long-lasting than their physical injuries," he said.

CASE STUDY: KELLY'S STORY

Kelly, not her real name, was the victim of domestic abuse who has since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She says she suffered "permanent physical damage and scars" and does not like to be left on her own due to "flashbacks and nightmares".

And she says she was stalked for several years before it came to an end that she is now "always expecting something to happen".

  • Kelly's story was provided by Victim Support

He says that of about 300,000 victims of violence treated in emergency departments in England and Wales each year, about 40% will go on to have mental health problems.

He added that although the "mental health impacts of violence are common", they are also "often neglected."

"We hope this guidance will help make sure that people who are victims of violence get the help they need," he said.

The guidance includes a new stepped system to show how emergency departments, GPs and the criminal justice system can work together to identify people who show signs of mental ill health and provide them with help.

Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan said volunteers have been helping victims deal with the emotional and psychological effects of crime for nearly 40 years.

However, greater collaboration between all the agencies and individuals involved would ensure more victims with trauma-related and mental health conditions are identified and appropriately referred.

The Welsh government has been asked to comment.

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