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Society often represents domestic abuse as an isolated issue. In fact, there are lots of intertwining factors that, once spoken about, can help us to better understand how we need to support people experiencing domestic abuse.

Today we are talking about mental health.

Women experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to experience a mental health problem, while women with mental health problems are more likely to be domestically abused.

Research suggests that 30-60% of women with a mental health problem have experienced domestic violence.

This means that mental health is a prominent issue when discussing violence and abuse.

Mental health as a tool for abuse

In some cases, perpetrators will use a partner’s mental diagnosis as a tool to inflict abuse. This may include behaviour such as convincing someone they couldn’t cope on their own, threatening to have children taken away and withholding medication.

These tactics add to emotional distress, exacerbating existing mental health issues and can keep people trapped in abusive and violent relationships. In addition, women who experience mental health problems may find it harder to report domestic abuse due to the perceived societal stigma attached to a mental health diagnosis.

It may be that if a woman does report domestic abuse, she could receive a problematic response from service providers who discriminate against her on the grounds of her mental health.

The impact on mental health

Mental health can be both a tool of abuse and an impact of abuse. It is estimated that every day almost 30 women attempt suicide as a result of experiencing domestic abuse. Each week, three women will take their own lives.

It’s not just the physical violence that’s linked with increase in suicide. Verbal and emotional abuse are associated with higher risk, as well as the duration and frequency.

However, there is currently no ‘liability for suicide’ law under which an abusive partner can be prosecuted for the suicide of a person they abused.

Raising awareness

Given the strong association between mental health and experiencing domestic abuse, mental health services must take action to detect cases of domestic abuse. In addition, it is important that domestic abuse services are able to support people with mental health problems.

Anawim provides a holistic, wrap-around service which means women can receive support all in one place. Anyone who identifies as a woman can contact our free, confidential helpline on 0800 019 8818 to speak with a specialist female caseworker about mental health, domestic abuse, housing, finances, families and relationships, or anything else.

While our own services are specialised for women, it is not just women who experience domestic abuse. Respect run a free helpline on 0808 8010327 for men who need support.

LGBT+ and anti-violence charity Galop provide a national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ domestic abuse helpline on 0800 999 5428. They can also provide support for those who have experienced hate crime and sexual violence.