Increasing disclosure of domestic violence and abuse and improving the responses of sexual and mental health services

Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) affects around a quarter of women and a fifth of men in the UK. People who experience and live with DVA have increased physical and mental health problems. But they often do not disclose their experience to doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, for fear of not being understood or taken seriously, or of the repercussions from their partner.

IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety) is a general practice-based domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training support and referral programme aimed at women experiencing DVA. The IRIS programme led to a significant increase in referrals to domestic violence agencies, indicating that more survivors of DVA were able to get effective support and help.

People who experience DVA are often suffering from a mental illness – depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are common – and are under the care of community mental health services. If people are in a sexually violent or abusive relationship, their first point of contact for help is often the sexual health clinic, as there are higher rates of sexually transmitted infections in this group. This research aims to examine how feasible it is to roll out adapted versions of IRIS into mental health, alcohol and sexual health services.

Project aims

A feasibility study to see if the IRIS approach could be adapted for NHS and voluntary sector mental health, sexual health and alcohol services, in conjunction with third sector agencies.

Anticipated impacts

The study will explore the acceptability of this training intervention for clinical staff in sexual health settings, to inform further development of this new approach.

Lead collaborators

Partners on this project

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust provides services for people with mental health needs, drug or alcohol dependency and people with learning disabilities. It covers Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire and provides a specialist service throughout the South West.

Bristol City Council

The council plays a vital role in the health community as public health is part of its remit. Its role is to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population of Bristol. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and it focuses on the population as a whole, not on individual patients or diseases.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is a dynamic group of hospitals in the heart of Bristol, with over 100 clinical services across nine sites. They offer care to the people of Bristol and the South West, and have an international reputation for cardiac surgery, paediatric services, oncology and bone marrow transplantation and are the largest centre for medical training and research in the South West.

University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is internationally renowned and one of the very best in the UK, due to its outstanding teaching and research, its superb facilities and highly talented students and staff. Its students thrive in a rich academic environment which is informed by world-leading research. It hosts the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research.