BACKGROUND: A high proportion of psychiatric service users experience domestic violence, yet most cases remain undetected by clinicians.
AIMS: This study aimed to assess mental health professionals' knowledge, attitudes and preparedness to respond to domestic violence.
METHOD: Information was collected on psychiatrists' and psychiatric nurses' knowledge, attitudes and preparedness towards the assessment of domestic violence, using an adapted Physician Readiness to Measure Intimate Partner Violence Survey.
RESULTS: One hundred and thirty-one professionals were surveyed. Only 20 (15%) professionals routinely asked all service users about domestic violence and just 36 (27%) provided information to service users following disclosure. Most professionals (60%) felt that they lacked adequate knowledge of support services, and 27% felt that their workplace did not have adequate referral resources for domestic violence. Nurses reported greater readiness to assess and manage domestic violence than psychiatrists (p < 0.001), despite psychiatrists reporting greater overall knowledge (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Mental health professionals need to have clear referral pathways for service users who experience domestic violence, and to receive training on enhancing their knowledge and competencies to address domestic violence.