The project SWMH – Sex Work and Mental Health: Access to Mental Health Services for People who Sell Sex is funded by the Public Health Program of the Open Society Foundations and based at Hydra e.V. an association supporting sex workers in Germany. The project has a duration of 2 years (Sept.2016 - Aug.2018).
SWMH tries to understand sex workers’ mental health issues and needs as well as their experiences of mental health services and support available to them.
It takes place in Germany, Britain, Italy and Sweden, and hopes to improve the situation of sex workers worldwide.
SWMH aims to investigate sex workers' own understanding of their mental health needs and analyse the way they perceive and evaluate mental health services that are actually available to them across different socio-economic and legal contexts in Europe. It also investigates experiences and attitudes of the mental health practitioners who have had experience to support sex workers. The project adopts a participatory methodology involving peer researchers. It also acknowledges the multiple ways in which the health and well being of sex workers are affected by working conditions and legal regulatory frameworks on sex work and trafficking.
In each country, we interview 20-25 people who have experience of selling sex and have had mental health issues, to hear about their experiences of mental health provision, and about their views and perceptions about the relation between mental health and sex work.
Our project also involves mental health providers - psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, nurses, social workers, sexologists - who have experience of supporting sex workers, by asking them about their practices and views in an online survey. The survey has been designed through consultations and explorative interviews with 10 providers.
The majority of interviews are made by sex workers, the rest by people who have extensive experience of working directly with sex workers.
The research team is composed of peer and non peer researchers, the latter with extensive experience working directly with sex workers.