Struggling to Cope: Violence and Aggression Faced by Mental Health Staff

March 21, 2022
Woman behind a receptionist desk talking with female nurse

In 2017 public service union UNISON published a survey report examining mental health staff and services, and the results indicate a sector under pressure. The report looks at stress at work, cuts to services and includes a detailed analysis of the violence and aggression faced by staff in the workplace.

Aggression on a daily basis

One respondent to the survey stated that either verbal or physical aggression happened "on a daily basis", going on to say that "rather than being an unusual occurrence I now consider this [verbal aggression] almost a default position for a large number of patients." This is backed up statistically as some 42% of respondents highlighted that they had been the subject of a violent or aggressive incident from a service user within the last year, while more than a third (36%) had witnessed a colleague being the victim of violence.

Other feedback included the description of an assault where the recipient was "repeatedly punched to the floor", while others spoke of "attempted strangulation", being "head-butted, punched and spat at when supporting patients with personal care", or "unexpected physical abuse from patients that are confused and worked up.

Need for Training in De-Escalation

More than a quarter of respondents (28%) indicated that a lack of training in de-escalation techniques was a factor, while more than one in 10 (12%) stated that they had not received de-escalation training (where it was relevant to their role).

Although the report raises some concerning issues, CPI pointed out the success of our training programmes in mental health settings. MAPA®, now known as Safety Intervention, delivers a focus on de-escalation and deceleration, while also providing 'break-away' and 'disengagement' skills to keep staff safe from punches, kicks, bites, hair pulls and other attacks.

From our own 2017 survey, 97% of our customers agreed that MAPA® "improved staff de-escalation skills, improved overall safety, and has become ingrained in [their internal] training." CPI continues to work with health care organisations to help develop cultures based on a philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM.

Find out more about Safety Intervention and our other training programmes by visiting Our Programmes page.

The full UNISON report, 'Struggling to Cope' is available to download here (PDF).  

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