Savera UK Blog Post

The Mental Health Impact on Young People After Abuse

My name is Carl Dutton, I am a mental health practitioner having trained as a mental health nurse and psychotherapist. Over the last 15 years I have worked within different communities in Liverpool with children and families who are fleeing from war and conflict and are looking for refuge in the United Kingdom. My work has involved supporting and providing different forms of social and therapeutic therapies such as Art, Drama, Music, Poetry, Sport, and Music. I also provided very specific types of trauma focused psychotherapies such as narrative exposure therapy and trauma focused cognitive behaviour therapy.

The service I provided was The Haven Project which helped asylum and refugee seeking children and families. It received many awards for its work in this area to help with the emotional and psychological effects of trauma related to war and conflict and its approach to participation with the young people it worked with to help shape and develop the service.

I have known Savera UK for many years and its work with those individuals and families affected by domestic violence and harmful practices. The work of providing a safe and secure place for those affected by these issues is very important and especially for children who might be adversely affected by these situations and Savera UK is an organisation that strives to help those young people and families who may be at risk of such issues via education sessions in schools and community settings as well as direct work with them to provide a safe place for them to be supported and listened too.

Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on children and young people and can last into adulthood. One in seven (14.2%) children and young people under the age of 18 will have lived with domestic violence at some point in their childhood. (Radford et al, 2011/) 61.7% of women in refuge on the Day to Count 2017 had children (aged under 18) with them. (Women’s Aid website)

Children can experience behavioural and emotional effects as a consequence of witnessing domestic abuse. In this instance children need a safe adult whom they trust to speak about worries and fears they may have, questions that trouble them about the situation, and reassurance that they will be safe and secure. Often children do not tell always what might be troubling them and it might be seen in behaviours such as poor sleep pattern, bad dreams, becoming withdrawn, reduced eating, anxious and angry often, school work may suffer, may seem distracted, might talk about self-harm or harm themselves (cutting), and become less sociable.

When a child shows any of these symptoms it is important to document and talk through your concerns and worries with your immediate manager/work colleague and also with the parent/carer to see if they also have noticed changes but also that you can get a fuller picture of any underlying issues which might have contributed to the child/young person feeling/behaving this way.

It is important to note that if you have concerns about a child’s safety in any way then you should seek advice and support from your safeguarding lead with your organisation and also to Careline services.


Written by Mental Health Practitioner Carl Dutton