SYMPOSIUM: Trauma And The Diagnosis Of Mental Illness: Bridging The Duality Of Service Provision

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Authors: Paper 1: Coralie Haynes, SA Paper 2: Celia Karpfen and Danielle Zerk, SA Paper 3: Chris McCabe and Jo Campbell, NSW

Year: 2006

Event: 2006 TheMHS Conference


Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

ISBN: 9780975765326

Abstract: Recent estimates suggest that between 40-80% of women with a diagnosis of mental illness have been subjected to abuse or other forms of trauma in childhood and/or adulthood. However, questions still remain about what this means for each consumer, and the way that mental health and community support is offered.

Too often questions relating to experiences of trauma are not seen as relevant to consumers’ presenting, or ongoing issues. Workers often hold the belief that raising issues of trauma will cause the consumer to ‘decompensate’, or that questions will themselves be retraumatising. Furthermore, the context in which trauma sensitive questions are asked and the response of workers to disclosure is an area within the mental health sector that requires serious consideration and exploration.

For those at the coalface of the work, whether as consumer advocates, mental health workers, women’s and community workers or trainers, it is necessary that questions go beyond the debate of whether trauma is a mental health issue. Research and practice confirm that it is. Therefore, in order to advance our work with individuals who have experienced trauma and the diagnosis of mental illness, we need to go beyond questions such as, “do you ask about trauma and if so, when?”

Rather, focus is needed on “how do you ask?” and “what needs to be in place for you to ask?” in the context of current mental health frameworks. We need to consider how the work is done, including attention to power imbalances implicit between consumers and workers. It is also imperative that we seek to minimise the potential retraumatising that can take place within mental health services. This paper will consider how we assist individuals to live life beyond the effects of trauma and abuse, and how asking questions influences or changes the way we work with that individual.

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