Domestic violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders and suicide attempts. A 2013 analysis found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression (World Health Organisation, 2020). A UK study also found a strong association between exposure to intimate partner violence and mental illness and that the relationship was significant when assessing the link between anxiety, depression and serious mental illness and intimate partner violence.
Our Annual Impact Report 2019 outlines the impacts that domestic abuse has on women who reach out to us for support. They report depression, anxiety, distress, confusion, exhaustion, low self-esteem, loss of identity, loss of appetite or the onset of eating disorders, medical issues from not eating, issues sleeping, nightmares, self-harm and suicide ideation.
Our recent research into intimate relationship abuse and young people aged 18 to 25 shows the multiple and severe impacts that intimate relationship abuse has on young women. Young women reported loss of the self-esteem, suffering anxiety and depression, withdrawing from family and friends, stopping attending work or college, suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide as well as constantly living in fear. Shockingly, 86% of the young women we surveyed said that they had experienced anxiety or depression as a result of been subjected to intimate relationship abuse. Isolation from family and friends and low self-esteem or self-worth as a result of the abuse were also noted as significant impacts.
The World Health Organisation highlight that intimate partner violence contributes significantly to women’s mental health issues particularly in relation to depression and suicide, as well as sexual and reproductive health problems, including maternal health and neonatal health problems. They note that traumatic stress is thought to be the main mechanism that explains why intimate partner violence may cause subsequent depression and suicide attempts. Exposure to traumatic events can lead to stress, fear and isolation which may lead to depression and suicidal behaviours (World Health Organisation, 2013).
Increased access to mental health support services and counselling are needed for women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence or children who have witnessed domestic violence. Private counselling for women and children is often not affordable and access is needed to specifically trained counsellors on domestic violence and its effects. Affordable and adequately resourced counselling also needs to be provided for victims of image-based sexual abuse due to the severe and persistent mental health impacts that such abuse can have.