On 11th March 2019, the Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network held its first network meeting at the St Pancras Community Centre in London. These meetings are held every 6 months and are a chance to discuss network strategy and activity; for members to meet and discuss key issues relating to violence, abuse and mental health; and provide a platform for members to present recent work and research findings.
The day began with an introduction from network co-lead Dr Sian Oram, who spoke about the network’s vision of reducing mental health problems by addressing associated violence and abuse, particularly domestic and sexual violence. Work to achieve this vision will be organised into three thematic areas: developing a shared language and approach to measurement, understanding the pathways to domestic and sexual violence and their relationship with mental health, and building more effective interventions. However, within this overall plan there is flexibility to respond to the research priorities of people with lived experience of violence, abuse and mental health problems as well as to those of other network members. So one of the first network activities is to conduct work to understand these priorities. Dr Dan Robotham from the McPin Foundation reported on the methods and preliminary findings from this work; full results will be published and circulated in the next few months.
The theme of collaboration continued with a round-table activity in which participants discussed: a) What are the most significant opportunities and challenges for the network over the next 4 years? b) What does co-production mean in the context of this network c) How can we make the most of member expertise and resources to make this network effective and high impact? d) What will make this network worthwhile to its members so that people continue to join and stay? e) How do we avoid having silent members who have signed up but don’t actively engage? There was a huge amount to be gained from the wide range of people in the room, coming from different backgrounds, sectors and academic fields with a variety of experiences of these issues. To read a summary of the answers given click here.
In the afternoon, we were delighted to welcome speakers from two of our partner organisations: Safe Lives and Standing Together Against Domestic Violence. Suzanne Jacob, Emma Vallis and Shanti Rao spoke about the SafeLives Whole Picture approach and findings from the evaluation of the Drive project, which aims to change the behaviour of perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. Sarah Hughes from Standing Together Against Domestic Violence then spoke about implementing lessons learned from analysing Domestic Homicide Reports.
In the second afternoon session, three members of the Domestic Homicide International Research Network presented on three different aspects of domestic homicide. Dr Khatidja Chantler from the University of Central Lancashire focused on the characteristics and mental health of victims and perpetrators of parricide (homicides committed by a child against one or both of their parents). The key findings of the pilot study highlighted the need for a higher level of professional understanding when it came to domestic abuse, as domestic abuse was rarely considered in the context of patients with physical and mental health needs. Then Professor Solveig Vatnar from Molde University College in Norway looked at the issue of substance abuse in cases of domestic homicide. Her research found that biological traces of substance abuse could be found in 53.1% of the homicide perpetrators and 41.2% of the victims. Lastly, Professor Nicky Stanley explored the effects of domestic homicide on children and found that domestic homicide reviews give scant consideration to the ongoing needs of child survivors. Overall these talks stressed the need for a stronger collaboration between health services, social services and domestic violence organisations.
Dr Sian Oram closed the day, reporting on upcoming events and activities, including information about the network’s first small grant competition and plans to develop an online data resource to bring together information about datasets that hold information on violence, abuse, and mental health.
If you missed the meeting, The Mental Elf recorded a number of podcasts with some of the speakers and other network members which you can listen to at the bottom of this post. You can also download the slides from all of the presentations by using the link below.
The next meeting will be taking place in Nottingham on 7th October. Speakers, and other details of the day will follow later this year along with booking instructions. Look out for more details in our newsletter. We hope that you will be able to join us then!