KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 10
“Abuse may be defined as the following to treat (a person or animal) in a harsh or harmful way or to use or treat (something) in a way that causes damage or to use (something) wrongly”.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines “mental health”.
Types of Abuse
Risk Factors for Child Abuse
There are some factors or circumstances that are known to increase the risk of child abuse, although not all families who have these risk factors will go on to abuse their children. There is a higher risk of abuse and violence in some disadvantaged families that have experienced multiple social and financial problems.
However it is important not to stereotype families or make assumptions about their relationships on this basis. It is also important to realise that abuse can occur in families that do not appear to fit this profile. Risk factors for child abuse include:
Warning Signs of Abuse
There are warning signs that suggest the possibility of abuse. However it is important to remember that the presence of these signs does not necessarily mean that abuse has occurred. Some of these can also represent behaviour or mental health problems which have arisen for reasons other than abuse.
Child Abuse and Mental Health
Experiencing abuse in childhood or adolescence has been identified as a significant risk factor for poor mental health, poor attachment and connection to parents and family, and general adjustment problems. Certain children may be less vulnerable to such problems following abuse or neglect, if there are other factors that offset these effects. Such protective factors include connectedness to other members of the family or peers, minimal other life stress, level of development and resilience prior to abuse, and the availability of resources, intervention and support programs.
Effects on General Mental Health
Adjustment in later life varies and will be affected by factors such as age of child when abused, severity, frequency and duration of abuse. Children or adolescents who have been abused may be more likely to show some of the following characteristics:
Risk of Mental Illness and Disorders
Child abuse is a risk factor for a number of mental illnesses that may be diagnosed in childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Not all children who have suffered abuse will develop a diagnosable mental illness, but in general there is a higher risk of developing:
Risk of Suicide and Self Harm
There is an association between childhood abuse and the risk of suicidal behaviour. One study found that a history of physical abuse increases the odds of attempting suicide by almost 5 times, while a history of emotional abuse may increase the odds of a suicide attempt by more than 12 times.
Management of Abuse.
Rampukar Sah is a Clinical Psychologist and is trained in child and adolescent psychiatry. He is currently a consultant at Kanti Childrens Hospital.
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