Victims’ mental health problems following violent or sexual attacks are often more serious and long-lasting than their physical injuries, doctors have warned.
About two-fifths of the 300,000 victims of violence treated in emergency departments in England and Wales each year go on to have mental health problems, the co-author of new guidelines for doctors said.
But Professor Jonathan Shepherd, director of the violence and society research group at Cardiff University, said mental health issues were going unrecognised and were often neglected altogether.
“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,” Prof Shepherd said.
“Although the mental health impacts of violence are common, they are also often neglected.”
New guidelines issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) “will help make sure that people who are victims of violence get the help they need”, Prof Shepherd added.
Formal mental health screening in emergency departments of people exposed to traumatic events was “inefficient and wasteful and should not be instituted”, it said.
But it added that doctors and other health professionals should be alert to the signs and help refer patients for further support.
Health and criminal justice professionals and agencies should also integrate their efforts to “pre-empt, identify and reduce the impact of violence on mental health”, the guidelines said.