Mental health needs of survivors of childhood abuse are not being met by the NHS

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), the national charity which supports adult survivors of child abuse, says the mental health needs of adult survivors of childhood abuse are not being met by the NHS.

Health professionals may recognise that childhood abuse is the root cause of someone’s mental health problems, but there is minimal provision of trauma-informed and focused support which addresses the abuse underlying these conditions.

Gabrielle Shaw, NAPAC’s CEO said: “Many survivors face mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and self-harming. Moreover, substance abuse and addictive behaviours are common ways for survivors to medicate their untreated trauma and intense emotional pain.

“We’re hearing every week from professionals in mental health, general practice and drug and alcohol services that they are receiving increasing numbers of disclosures from adult survivors of child abuse and often feel ill-equipped on how to best support people or don’t know where they can refer people for specialist support.

“We hope the NHS will look at the lack of provision of trauma-specific and focused support which address the root cause of these mental health problems. We also need to train health professionals so they feel confident about listening to and facilitating disclosure of abuse and ensure people are referred for appropriate support.”

Callers to NAPAC’s support line – health impacts, if reported *

74 % anxiety
68 % depression
30% suffer flashbacks
20 % suffer sleep disturbance
17% experience panic attacks
9% had felt suicidal
8% used drug or alcohol as a coping mechanism
3% suffered eating disorders


• Based on anonymised support line data from July 2016-Jan 2017. Health impacts are recorded only if volunteered by the caller, as our support line model is based on caller-led disclosure. We don’t ask any specific questions.

• NAPAC’s telephone support line is currently funded by the Home Office (through grant funding supplied by the Ministry of Justice) until April 2017 and we are in discussions with them about potential future funding.

• NAPAC answered over 5,400 calls on its support line last year

• 15% of callers to NAPAC’s support line are telling someone for the first time about what they suffered

• There has been a tenfold increase in demand for NAPAC’s support groups, from 10 registrations per week to over 100 per week, because of media coverage about child abuse in football

• There is very little specialist support across the UK for adult survivors of childhood abuse. People often have to pay for private counselling.

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