Assessment of the mental health status of a one year cohort attending a two Sexual Assault Referral Centres in England
ABSTRACT: A one year audit was undertaken of the mental health (MH) status of adult attendees to the Thames Valley Sexual Assault Centres (SARC). There were 301 relevant referrals over the twelve month period of whom 126 (42%) either fully or partially completed the mental health assessments. 38% (n = 66) of the population did not consent to the research. Participation in the study was felt inappropriate by the case clinician in the rest of the cases. To summarise the findings: 36% were moderately or severely depressed; 30% experienced moderate to severe anxiety; 28% were drinking at hazardous/harmful levels; and 12% had a drug problem that was moderate to severe. Self-harm affected 45% of the sample with the greater majority cutting themselves and self-harming before the age of 17. Admission to a psychiatric in-patient unit was not uncommon and 19% had been admitted an average of three times each. The figure of 19% admitted to a psychiatric hospital is 90 times higher than for the general female population. 42% of the total sample were being prescribed medication for their mental health problem. The paper concludes that: there should be agreement nationally on the use of a standardised set of mental health outcome measures which are used in all assessments; there should be a move towards the com- missioning of expert psychological support that is offered in a SARC and the pathways for specialist mental health care out of the SARCs. Finally, forensic physicians and general practitioners needs a greater awareness of the mental health sequalae of sexual assault and they then need to make prompt referrals to the appropriate services.