Mental health services will be developed to provide specialised support for victims of female genital mutilation in England.
Healthcare professionals will be trained to understand how to treat FGM’s psychological impact, the government said.
FGM refers to any procedure that alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The news comes on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
The Department of Health has been working alongside survivor groups and charities to understand mental health implications.
Online training tools and guidance for NHS healthcare professionals will be developed, with advice on the specific mental health needs of women affected.
The announcement aims to ensure NHS staff in England are better equipped to deal with the long-term effects of the practice, which is also known as female circumcision.
Public Health minister Jane Ellison said: “I think it’s the next obvious step in how we support girls and women who’ve been through FGM.
“We’ve made a lot of progress on the physical side of things but what really comes through from the conversations that you have with people who’ve been through FGM, is that the trauma can stay with them for a lifetime.”
Doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers in England and Wales are legally required to report cases of FGM to the police.
The government says it is committed to ending the “abusive and illegal practice” within a generation.
A recent study estimated that about 137,000 people in England and Wales have been affected by FGM.
Between July and September last year, 1,385 cases were reported, with the highest number in London.
Christina – not her real name – is 42 and lives in west London. She was circumcised in Eritrea, east Africa, when she was six.
She was called into a room after being told her grandmother had come to visit.
“I went in and I was held down by four ladies and that’s when they did it,” she said.
“I was screaming for my mother but she wasn’t there.
“My father didn’t even know about it.”
Christina has been having counselling sessions with healthcare professionals and now paints to try to help deal with the impact of the experience.
“I’d say right now, more than the physical part, it’s the mental part I find difficult,” she said.
“I started having flashbacks, it was a shock. It felt like it had happened now and not 36 years ago.”
The Hillcrest Surgery in Ealing, west London, is one of the only practices in the UK to provide specialised support to those affected by FGM.
Deqa Dirie is a healthcare advocate at the clinic and runs discussion groups where women have a safe space to talk about their experiences.
She said: “We see people from a number of different cultural backgrounds.
“It’s important for professionals to be trained so that if they come across a lady who has FGM they know the best way to help her, not just physically but mentally too.”
Female genital mutilation
- Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”
- Practised in 29 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East
- An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
- About 125 million victims estimated to be living with the consequences
- It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
- Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage and to ensure “pure femininity”
- Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth
- In December 2012, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice
Source: World Health Organization
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35509122