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Exploring best practice: Working with perpetrators with mental health needs

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During Mental Health Awareness Week we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the Drive Partnership’s work researching mental health needs and the perpetration of domestic abuse, and supporting practitioners who work with service users with mental health needs. Mental health continues to be identified as a need of many of Drive and Restart’s service users. We also recognise how threats of suicide can be weaponised by perpetrators as a tool to coercively control their victims and continue perpetrating their abusive behaviour.

Our team of practice advisers work to support frontline staff at our sites across England and Wales to deliver the Drive Project for high-harm, high-risk perpetrators of domestic abuse. Luke and Viv, two of our practice advisers, recently worked on developing guidance for practitioners who are supporting service users who are experiencing suicidal ideation. This is part of our commitment to providing a holistic response to perpetrators that enables them to engage in behaviour change work and reduce the risk their behaviour poses to victim-survivors.

Through the Workforce Development stream of our National Systems Change work, we deliver webinars to mental health teams to support their increased understanding of perpetrators and how to respond to them in their professional setting. These webinars have led to improved recognition of domestic abuse perpetration.

“Thank you so much for today – my phone has been ringing since and one of the Consultants has identified a seriously high risk perpetrator.. so who knows, you may just have saved his wife’s life with your training!!” – Training attendee

We are also proud to have supported Dr Vishal Bhavsar and his team’s ongoing work looking at whether there is a greater use of NHS mental health services by those who have perpetrated partner violence. Their recently published paper found that there was an association between self-reporting perpetration of partner violence and recent use of mental health services. On further investigation, most of this correlation is explained by factors that are widely understood to have an impact on both perpetration and mental health service use including experiencing partner violence as a victim and childhood adversities. The paper also underlines that mental health services need to build better responses to identifying and responding to people who may be perpetrating domestic abuse.

We are currently working with academics at the University of Bristol on a paper that examines whether perpetrators of domestic abuse are at a higher risk of suicide and suicidal ideation than the general population, and the effects this has on not only them but their victim-survivors, friends and family. This research will be published later this year.

We look forward to bringing together learnings from all of these pieces of work to continue to inform both our practice and our national systems change work streams. The Drive Partnership remains committed to continuing to explore links between mental health needs and the perpetration of domestic abuse while being clear that mental ill health must not be used by those causing harm to minimise their abuse.