Study shows psychiatrists may be missing training to help people facing family violence

Neelima Choahan

16/05/2018 3:13:10 PM

The first study into Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists’ knowledge and preparedness to respond to domestic violence cases has found half of respondents had received fewer than two hours of specific training on how to deal with the issue.

Dr Manjula O’Connor says psychiatrists need 11 hours of training to be better prepared to deal with people who experience family violence.
Dr Manjula O’Connor says psychiatrists need 11 hours of training to be better prepared to deal with people who experience family violence.

Australian psychiatrists may be failing to detect the fact their patients are experiencing family violence, a new study has revealed.
The research, a collaboration between the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and University of Melbourne Department of General Practice, explored psychiatrists’ and trainee psychiatrists’ knowledge, attitudes and preparedness in responding to family violence.
Co-author Dr Manjula O’Connor, Chair of the RANZCP Family Violence Psychiatry Network, told newsGP the first-of-its-kind study revealed psychiatrists are not receiving adequate training.
‘The findings show half of the psychiatrists in the study had received two hours of specific domestic violence training or less, negatively impacting on their preparedness to deal with cases,’ Dr O’Connor said.
‘People who had more hours of training … felt more comfortable dealing with family violence.
‘We were able to have a clear distinction between those people who had more than 11 hours of training as compared to those who hadn’t, and on that basis we are recommending a minimum of 11 hours of training for psychiatrists and for trainee psychiatrists.’
The online survey was sent to all 4650 Australian members of the RANZCP and included 20 questions measuring knowledge and preparedness from the ‘Physician Readiness to Manage Intimate Partner Violence’ survey.
A total of 216 responded; however, Dr O’Connor said even though the numbers are small they are in keeping with international research. More than half of the respondents were women, with the mean age of 51 among all participants.
Dr O’Connor said half of the respondents felt they did not have adequate knowledge of referral resources for their patients and there was a very low proportion of referrals to perpetrator programs.
The research revealed one in five participants finds it difficult to support a patient who stays in an abusive relationship.
Dr O’Connor said psychiatrists in the study were more likely to feel uncomfortable asking patients about current family violence, compared to past incidents.
‘Around one in 10 psychiatrists surveyed also felt they did not have the necessary skills to discuss domestic violence with female victims, particularly patients from a different cultural or ethnic background,’ she said.
‘Additional training may also be needed to alert psychiatrists to the need to stop providing counselling to both the victim and perpetrator, something a third of respondents reported they had done.
‘The reason is that the power difference may make it difficult for women to be completely candid and the session may trigger further abuse later at home.’
Dr O’Connor said women, particularly those from a multicultural background, often feel ashamed to discuss their situation.
‘Often the family violence issue is buried under very complex psychiatrist presentations,’ Dr O’Connor said.
‘It doesn’t come to the fore until some sessions later. So we as psychiatrists have to be mindful that domestic violence is a significant contributor in at least one third of our patients and have to sometimes chase it up over many sessions before a woman can feel comfortable and start discussing the family violence issues.’
The study is being presented at the RANZCP Annual Congress in Auckland from 13–17 May.

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jenny de vine   6/08/2018 11:10:55 AM

The disconnect between reality for women suffering from economic, psychological and emotional abuse after leaving an abusive relationship and their pressing needs for support against their perpetrator's ongoing exacerbated harm to them post separation, (including his ability to afford legal representation by like minded legal team against her being forced to represent herself, often whilst dealing with being made homeless etc), and the delays in being able to see a psychiatrist result in the women being utterly disempowered and frustrated by the legal and medical system, generally finding that they either cannot get an appointment in relevant time to legal proceedings or cannot afford them. I went to one who told me I was ''delusional'' because of the web of family violence and various servants engaged by my perpetrator to obstruct justice and to ''teach me a lesson'', promising that I would suicide before I got a cent out of him in family law proceedings.