The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner publishes report examining trafficking survivors’ experiences of mental health support



SURVIVORS’ MENTAL WELLNESS: Our Feelings, our Minds, our World, authored by IASC Project Officer Abigail Egbe, examines trafficking survivors’ experiences of mental health support in order to identify the various gaps and challenges to sustainable mental wellness. The research was informed by a call for survivor insights which had two core aims:


  1. To consider whether the current provision of mental health support for those in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is able to adequately meet the needs of survivors of modern slavery.
  2. To examine whether the mental health support provided is culturally sensitive and to what extent this is important to survivors’ recovery process.


The research also included an examination of extracts from Modern Slavery, Mental Health and Survivors research initiative (MOMENTS 1) by the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham.


The report includes a series of findings across five overarching themes which emerged from the data and survivors’ views:


  1. The impact of time limited counselling sessions
  2. Long waiting lists for mental health support
  3. The importance of face-to-face support
  4. Concerns regarding incomplete therapy sessions
  5. The extent to which counsellors are unaware and/or misunderstanding of cultural elements


It incorporates a series of recommendations aimed at the following groups:

  • Survivors
  • Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including support workers.
  • Health sector professionals – including the NHS and private therapists
  • Policy makers – including the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care


Read the report here.


Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, commented:

It is essential that the insights and wisdom of those with personal experience of slavery and trafficking informs research, policy and practice. The views of survivors are crucial if we are to understand what works best in the design and delivery of support and this is especially important in the provision of mental health support that meets survivors’ needs.

“I am delighted to be publishing this report by Abigail Egbe who is a member of my small team. Her examination of how far mental health support for survivors of trafficking is tailored and culturally sensitive is highly valuable, and I am grateful to the survivors who contributed their views via the call for insights. I hope that the report’s findings will be used to improve the provision of mental health support for survivors and to inform future survivor led research.”


Abigail Egbe, IASC Project Officer, commented:

“Mental health is a pivotal foundation of everyone’s wellbeing. However, many survivors who desperately need timely mental health support encounter barriers to accessing this. My research examined the literature on mental health support for survivors of trafficking, and gathered survivor views on their experiences of the barriers to appropriate mental health support and the extent to which this is culturally sensitive and trauma informed.

“This report shows that while some survivors have a positive experience when accessing mental health support, barriers and challenges remain including the time limited nature of therapy sessions, long waiting lists, a lack of face-to-face support and incomplete therapy sessions. Cultural sensitivity and trauma informed approaches were shown as essential in sustaining mental wellness, with important implications for practitioners and policymakers.”