Background: The Saint Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre has a unique service delivery model whereby it provides an integrated physical and psychological support services to clients, women men and children, living in Greater Manchester. The service is available to those who have reported rape or sexual assault, whether this is recent or historic. Clients living in surrounding areas of Cheshire are provided with forensic and medical services at Saint Mary's Centre, with follow-up care provided locally, as appropriate.
Aims: The primary objective was to identify the prevalence of self-reported pre-existing mental health complaints amongst adult clients who attended Saint Mary's Centre for a forensic medical examination. The secondary objective was to consider levels of engagement with the Centre's Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service by comparing clients who reported a mental health complaint to clients who did not.
Method: One-hundred and eighty sets of client's notes from 2016 were retrospectively analysed. Client inclusion criteria were that they were (a) over the age of 18 years when attending the Centre, (b) had attended for a forensic medical examination.
Results: 69% of clients analysed reported a pre-existing mental health complaint. The time taken for clients to present to Saint Mary's Centre following a reported assault tended to be later for the clients with self-reported mental health problems than those without. However, there was no difference in the long-term engagement with the Centre's Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service at the Centre between the two groups.
Conclusion: Prevalence of self-reported pre-existing mental health complaints is extremely high in clients presenting at Saint Mary's Centre as compared to national and regional prevalence rates for mental health complaints in the general population. The vulnerability of this client group should be considered when they attend a SARC and support provided should be appropriate and accessible to their needs. Staff should have adequate training and supervision to be able to respond in this way.
Keywords: Mental health; Rape; Self-harm; Sexual abuse; Sexual assault; Sexual assault referral centre; Sexual violence; Suicide.
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