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Why, when and how to ask about childhood abuse

  • John Read, Paul Hammersley and Thom Rudegeair
Abstract

Subscribers to the medical model of the causation of madness and distress emphasise the role of genes and can severely underestimate the impact of traumatic events on the development of the human mind. This bias persists despite the worldwide popular wisdom that mental illness arises when bad things happen to people. Childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect are extremely common experiences among those who develop serious mental health problems. Unfortunately, victims are typically reluctant to disclose their histories of abuse and practitioners are often reluctant to seek it. We explore the nature and extent of the problem and the apparent reasons for the pervasive neglect of this important area of care. Then, on the basis of our experience in New Zealand, we provide guidelines on asking patients about childhood abuse and describe an ongoing initiative in the UK to further advance our understanding of the impact of abuse and our skills to detect it and treat survivors.

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References
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Why, when and how to ask about childhood abuse

  • John Read, Paul Hammersley and Thom Rudegeair
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