It’s World Mental Health on 10th October, a worldwide effort to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage efforts to support those struggling with their mental health.
The theme for this year is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, chosen to highlight that 75% to 95% of people with mental health disorders in low and middle income countries are unable to access the mental health services they need.
Sadly, this lack of access to support can have some devastating effects for those who are struggling with their mental health. For survivors of abuse, this can quite often be the case. A study by UCL and the University of Cambridge found that victims of abuse who were disadvantaged at birth were 1.9 times at a higher risk of premature death than other socioeconomic groups.
What Did the Study Find?
Researchers looked at the link between early death and factors such as:
- Mental health
- Risky behaviour e.g. illegal drug taking and problem drinking
They found that 43% of children who were neglected in childhood were at a higher risk of dying early in adulthood, and adults who experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16 were 2.6 times more at risk of dying in middle age (between 45 and 58 years old).
This shows the devastating impact that child abuse can have in the long term, especially if victims of abuse can't access the support they need.
While the study doesn’t suggest that risky behaviour, obesity and mental health problems are direct causes of premature death, other studies have shown a link between childhood abuse and future mental health problems.
How Can Child Abuse Affect Mental Health?
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, child abuse and neglect can affect a person’s mental health in both direct and indirect ways.
Immediate effects can include:
- Problems with trust
In time, these emotional effects can result in:
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty in forming relationships
- Drug or alcohol addiction
Not every survivor of abuse will end up developing a mental health disorder and it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience will be different.
Looking After Your Mental Health
If you or someone you know is struggling with the mental effects of abuse, just know that there is support out there.
We understand that it can be difficult to know where to turn to but you don’t need to battle these problems alone. Our specialist Abuse Team are here if you want confidential advice and support, and can refer you to the best support group or helpline for your needs.
Some independent charities and helplines dedicated to mental health include:
- Samaritans - 0808 164 0123
- Victim Support - 0808 168 9111
- National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) - 0808 801 0331
- Childline - 0800 1111
- Support for Survivors - 0115 962 2722
- Mind - 0300 123 3393
You can also get support from your GP who can refer you to the right service for you.
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