Breaking-news: research conclusions on mental health support for survivors

Annabeth Taylor, a Master’s student at Nottingham University, carried out 22 in-depth anonymous surveys with Adavu clients over the past year and she has just shared the findings of her research.  The focus of her work was on survivors’ barriers to accessing appropriate mental health support. It highlights just how vital quality, timely and trauma-informed mental health support is in the longer-term journey of recovery to a life of freedom.

Here is a summary:

The mental health consequences of slavery for survivors can be severe and long-lasting due to the trauma experienced as a result of abuse and exploitation. Survivors of slavery may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, amongst other illnesses, and as a result, there is a vital need for them to access mental health services.

Although this may take different forms for each individual depending on their needs and the stage of their recovery, access to mental health care when requested is a crucial part of a survivor’s journey. However, it is widely known that accessing NHS mental health services is difficult, and there is limited research into factors which assist and hinder access to mental health services for survivors of slavery.

The research finds that, although there are a number of factors which assist access, such as support workers/caseworkers and staff at mental health services, survivors of slavery face a number of significant barriers to accessing mental health services. Barriers include GPs who do not have an understanding of trauma or are unwilling to make onward referrals, beliefs around mental health from survivors’ countries/cultures of origin, gaps in service provision and long waiting times.

The research also finds that survivors’ views of their eligibility greatly impacts their access.

The report makes the following recommendations:

1. All survivors in the UK should have access to casework support for as long as they need it, not just as a short-term provision, since the
role is crucial in assisting survivors to access mental health services.
2. Educating survivors where necessary about mental health, trauma and the mental health support they are entitled to in the UK should
form a key part of the supporting role above.
3. GPs should receive training about slavery and trauma to ensure they take a trauma-informed approach and offer the best possible care to patients who are survivors, both in terms of their interactions with them and the onward referrals they make.
4. Gaps in provisions of mental health services should be addressed, particularly for those survivors who fall in the gap between short-term
interventions for those with low needs and the high threshold for secondary care. Mental health support tailored to the specific needs of survivors is also needed.
5. Survivors should be offered a range of options and ways of accessing their mental health care, with services being flexible and tailoring interventions to the needs of each survivor.