In an emergency
If you feel at high risk to yourself or others please contact your GP or call 111. If you are at immediate risk please call 999.
First response helpline
First Response is available to adults over the age of 18 who are in Plymouth at the time of experiencing a mental health crisis.
Just call us on 0800 923 9323 if you need help 24/7.
Other health and care professionals and emergency responders such as the police, paramedics and GPs can also contact the First Response Service 24/7 by calling 01752 434922 if you need advice when working with an individual experiencing mental health difficulties or if you’d like to refer someone.
Support through line managers trained in REACT conversations
NHS national staff helpline and text line
As lock-down restrictions are eased, vulnerable colleagues who have shielded at home will be invited to slowly and safely return to work in the NHS. This is likely to cause increased anxiety for some colleagues and will require compassion and flexibility when welcoming them back. This national NHS guidance via the link below has been developed to help:
- People who have been shielding as they slowly start to return to work to feel less anxious and more supported.
- Work colleagues and managers to understand what it may have been like for people who have shielded and how to compassionately welcome them back into the workplace.
Only 20% of victims of domestic abuse tell the police, but most people do tell someone close to them so any of us could be in a position to help someone we know. Domestic abuse doesn’t just happen at home; 75% of those affected are targeted at work by harassing phone calls, abusive partners arriving at the office unannounced and physical assaults. Over half of women affected by domestic abuse miss at least three days of work a month and arrive late for work at least five times. With an estimated 51,000 NHS staff experiencing domestic abuse each year and a second lockdown in progress, it’s vital we think about our colleagues as well as neighbours, friends and family.
How do I know if it’s domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can take many forms such as physical violence, threats, verbal or emotional abuse, sexual violence, financial control, and intimidation. It can occur in intimate relationships, including when people have separated. It can also happen in families.
Domestic abuse is commonly a pattern and can be very gradual and subtle, making it harder to spot. Conflict in relationships is normal, but in a healthy relationship we’re not frightened of our partner and can negotiate and resolve disagreements.
There are more examples of what domestic abuse can look like and testimonies from survivors on the NHS website.
There are some key indicators of an abusive relationship;
- Control – people experiencing domestic abuse often feel they need to ‘check in’, to account for where they’ve been or who they’ve spoken to. You might get a sense that they’re not allowed to make decisions about things that affect them and that they need their partner’s permission. They may appear to worry a lot about their partner’s reaction.
- Isolation – people experiencing domestic abuse may see less and less of other people. This is even harder to identify during lockdown. They might make excuses not to meet up or change their habits based on their partner’s opinion. You get a sense that their partner is taking over their life.
- Manipulation – they may have a low opinion of themselves. You might notice their partner belittling and criticising them, perhaps in ways that are presented as banter or a joke. They seem preoccupied with keeping their partner happy rather than talking about what they want.
- Expectations – people experiencing domestic abuse may be pressured by their partner to look, dress or behave in a certain way. You may get a sense that their partner has rigid expectations that must be fulfilled. You might hear someone who is experiencing domestic abuse ‘minimising’ - for example saying things are just easier this way and that it’s best to keep their partner happy.
- Jealousy – people experiencing domestic abuse often change their behaviour to avoid accusations of cheating from their partner. This can cause them to avoid socialising.
- Fear – people experiencing domestic abuse often describe ‘walking on eggshells’ in an attempt to manage the abuse. You may get a sense that they’re afraid of their partner.
Who should I be concerned about?
Domestic abuse is often depicted in the media as a problem affecting heterosexual women, but this is not the whole story. Men, children, young people, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans people can all experience domestic abuse. We know that assumptions can be made about age and that people over the age of 55, particularly the elderly, are vulnerable to being overlooked. Domestic abuse can and does affect people irrespective of their ethnicity, profession or level of education. It’s important not to make assumptions!
In the workplace you may notice unexplained injuries, decreased productivity, frequent lateness or absence, changes in behaviour or frequent interruptions by their partner. Ending an abusive relationship can actually escalate harassment and abuse so it’s important to be mindful of colleagues who mention difficulties with an ex-partner. But you won’t know for sure unless you ask.
I’m concerned about someone; how do I approach it?
It’s easier to ask about domestic abuse if we already have a culture of talking about wellbeing; that way we create opportunities for colleagues to open up to us. Working from home has made it even harder for people to reach out for support, so we need to reach in.
In general, we can show curiosity into how home working is feeling. Ask colleagues how they and their family are coping with the stress of Covid 19. Make space and show you’re open to talking about difficult things. Survivors of domestic abuse tell us that disclosing was a lot easier when they were asked directly about it so don’t be afraid to ask a specific question.
Always ask someone when you’re one on one, not in front of other colleagues or when they can be overheard at home. Consider if they are wearing headphones and ask whether it’s a good time to speak confidentially. There’s no set way to phrase the question, but here are some ideas.
I wanted to talk about how you are, can anyone overhear us?
How are things at home?
I don’t know if you’ve seen the news about domestic abuse rising during Covid-19. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I want to ask everyone in the team if this is something they’ve been affected by?
I’ve noticed ___ and I wanted to ask whether anything is going on at home that might be contributing to that?
Are you feeling safe and happy at home?
Is there anyone at home you’re afraid of?
I’m worried about what my colleague may tell me.
It’s natural to be worried about what someone might tell you. You might worry you’ll say the wrong thing or make the situation worse. Remember that you don’t have to be an expert and that a good response is about what we all need when we’re going through something difficult – someone who believes us, who will be compassionate, non-judgemental and supportive.
Here are some ideas on what you might say;
- "I'm sorry this is happening to you"
- “Thank you for telling me”
- “It’s not your fault”
- “You’re not on your own”
- “How can I help?”
What support is there for my colleague?
Be led by the person disclosing. They may want someone they can talk to whilst they work out what to do next or they may want practical support. There is confidential, specialist support available from organisations who are very skilled in helping people explore their options. Encourage the person to call one of these services, even if they don’t want to give their name. Reassure them that domestic abuse services won’t pressure them to end the relationship if that’s not what they want now.
If they’re not able to contact support services while at home, encourage them to use the office. You might offer to be with them when they make the call. Remind them to be careful about internet searches and calls if they suspect their partner is monitoring these and remind them to always call 999 if they are frightened for their own or another’s safety.
Support services are listed at the end of this blog.
I’m very worried about what I’ve been told.
Domestic abuse is a safeguarding issue. Sadly, many people, including children are seriously hurt or killed as a result. Domestic abuse support services will assess risk and help the person put a safety plan in place which is another reason why it’s so important to encourage contacting them. If you are worried that someone, including a child, could be at risk of serious harm, you can contact the CCG Safeguarding Team for advice.
Hearing that a colleague or friend is experiencing domestic abuse is distressing and it’s normal to feel anxious about their safety, particularly if you’re the only person they have told. It’s important that you too have someone to lean on. You may have people you’re close to that you can speak to without breaking any confidences. You can also contact national or local domestic abuse services for advice and for reassurance.
It’s important that you don’t take sole responsibility – domestic abuse is best managed by a range of professionals working together to support the family so encouraging contact with a specialist service is key.
I’m worried that someone I know is being abusive.
Just as there’ll be people in our lives who have experienced domestic abuse, there will also be people acting in a harmful way. You might start to notice signs; perhaps they seem very controlling, jealous or insecure about their partner. They might belittle or undermine them. It can be very uncomfortable to witness, and you may feel unsure about whether it’s right to say something or not. Being confrontational is unlikely to help, and could escalate the situation, but there are ways in which you can signal to someone that their behaviour is not okay. You can choose not to laugh at a comment, you can voice concern about the way they’re acting, and you can encourage them to call the Respect helpline if they’re showing some acknowledgement of the problem. Respect is a confidential service for people who are concerned about their own behaviour. If you also know their partner, you might think about ways you can reach out to them to show your concern.
I’m experiencing domestic abuse
Making that first phone call can be the hardest step, but be assured that there are trained, highly skilled specialists who you can talk to in confidence. They won’t push you to make decisions and they won’t judge you. Even if at this stage you just have doubts about what’s happening to you and you’re unsure if it is domestic abuse, talking it over can help bring clarity.
Below are details of national and local support services; please be careful if you think the person abusing you may be monitoring your phone or internet activity.
For women: The National Domestic Abuse helpline is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day, all year round. Calls will not appear on an itemised bill. They also operate an online chat service. Please see https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/How-can-we-support-you or call 0808 2000 247
For men: The Men’s Advice line is free and confidential. Calls will not appear on an itemised bill. They also operate a webchat service. For details see https://mensadviceline.org.uk/contact-us/ or call 0808 8010327
If you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* or non-binary and would prefer to speak to an LGBT+ service, you can contact Galop who run the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse helpline. For more on Galop services see http://www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/ or for support call 0800 999 5428
There are domestic abuse and sexual violence services across Devon. Please see the details below to find the right service for you.
Devon Domestic Abuse Service https://www.splitz.org/devon 0345 1551074
Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service https://www.sanctuary-supported-living.co.uk/find-services/domestic-abuse/devon/plymouth-domestic-abuse-services-pdas 0800 458 2558