Safeguarding and Mental Health

By: Christopher Cody, Neurodiversity Coach, 3SC

20th March 2024

Safeguarding and mental health concerns are closely linked requiring a holistic approach. Involvement in safeguarding matters can impact mental health whilst pre-existing mental health concerns can be a risk factor for safeguarding.

 

In particular, people with mental health conditions may have susceptibility to the unfavourable experiences of neglect, exploitation, discrimination, or abuse.

 

The effects of abuse on mental health are often life altering. Depression, substance misuse, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can often result from many types of abuse.

 

Mental health conditions can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s ability to perform self-care. This can spiral into a cycle whereby the person’s neglect of their own basic needs can deepen and become a safeguarding issue.

 

Identifying and clarifying signs of a safeguarding issue and potential mental health concerns can be a complex issue due to overlaps in behaviours displayed in both circumstances. Not adding further distress during the investigation process should also be a prime concern and quick identification can reduce this. If in any doubt, report it, should always be your mantra.

 

An empathetic and non-judgemental approach is ideal. Trust is easier gained when someone feels you understand their situation; and that you can be relied on to be professional and discrete. Remember, however, that in safeguarding, discretion and confidentiality differ. Whilst you help someone avoid unwanted attention during a safeguarding process, information must be shared with the relevant authorities.

 

Strong collaboration between mental health professionals and those involved with a safeguarding concern can make for a less traumatic experience. Someone who is part of an investigation may need to revisit unwanted experiences so input from mental health support is vital to the safeguarding team.

 

Survivors of abuse and those living with mental health concerns can be feel stigmatised in terms of their experiences. Feelings of guilt, self-blame, and hopelessness can cause someone to fear disclosing or discussing their concerns. A safe and trusting environment that protects people from stigma should be a basis for all organisations involved.

 

Mental health support for families, friends, and others who may be indirectly affected by abuse can also be important. Like a stone dropped into a pond, the effects of trauma can ripple outward touching those who know the person involved. Recovery rates are improved for both mental health issues and freedom from the effects of abuse when the support network is strong. However, the support network may also require support.

 

Consideration specific to the individual may also need regard for a truly holistic approach. Factors such as sexuality, race, gender, mental capacity, and physical disability must be handled with respect and dignity. Professional judgements should be made with the whole person in mind as part of their situation or condition.

 

Mind offer support to individuals with mental health concerns. Further information about Mind can be accessed at: https://www.mind.org.uk/.

 

The NSPCC, are a leading organisation in the prevention of and support for children who may be at high risk of abuse. Information can be found via their official website at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/.