Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health
There is no question: violence affects mental health, which in term affects all elements of health and well-being. The World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada recognize gender-based violence as a significant public health issue.
From trouble sleeping, anxiety, and depression, to substance use to cope, to post-traumatic stress, and many other concerns, effects are wide-ranging, varied, and individual.
The scope of the impacts is large, given the reality that gender-based violence is so prevalent. Forty-four per cent of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.
The link between violence and mental health concerns is much higher for women.
- Women are significantly more likely than men to report negative emotional impacts of spousal violence, including isolation, depression, or anxiety attacks, and suicidal thoughts.
- 50% of women who have experienced violence also have had a mental health diagnosis.
- Women with a disability related to mental health are more likely to experience violent victimization than their male counterparts, especially sexual assault.
- The risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use concerns, or becoming suicidal was three to five times higher for women who had experienced violence.
Stigma associated both gender-based violence and mental health concerns can stop survivors from sharing their experiences, reporting incidents, and accessing support. Fear of losing custody of children is another concern that may keep survivors from disclosing their experiences. Survivors who experience mental health concerns may be less likely to report violence as their mental health is often used to discredit their experiences or blame them for what happened. Combined with other reasons, such as living in poverty, immigration status, and discrimination due to age, race, and sexual orientation, barriers to accessing supports can ben overwhelming.
What needs to be done?
Critical supports need to be strengthened for abuse survivors experiencing mental health concerns, both to prevent and address violence. This includes access to long-term counselling, affordable housing, childcare supports, better legal assistance, and employment opportunities.
In November 9, 2022, the Federal Government and Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women launched the 10-year National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. Participate in our action demanding that provinces act on the National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.