mental health awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 or nearly 60 million Americans every year.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to discuss mental health and to work to end the shame and stigma that often comes with these illnesses.

When people think about mental illness in relation to domestic violence, it’s generally believed that individuals living with mental illnesses are the ones committing the acts of violence. However, the connection more commonly runs the other way, with large percentages of those who suffer from mental illnesses becoming, or having been, the victims of domestic violence.

Mental health issues can arise as a result of intimate partner violence. On average, more than half of women seen in mental health settings are being or have been abused by an intimate partner. Recent studies of women who experienced abuse found that up to 84% suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 77% suffered from depression, and 75% suffered from anxiety.

Domestic violence victims with mental health issues also face many barriers, such as discrimination and stigmatization by the police, the legal system, health facilities and more.

Join us in taking time this month to educate yourself about mental illness and the stigma that often accompanies it. It is our hope that changing attitudes surrounding mental illness will allow those that suffer to be able to get the help and support they deserve.

What Can You Do?

Find your local National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) affiliate and NAMI state organization here.

Pay attention to your own mental health. If you feel like you may be suffering from a mental health condition, talk to someone you know and trust. Consult your health care provider or call 1-800-622-HELP to find treatment services nearby.

Help change the stigma associated with mental illness by learning more and showing compassion for those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Look for small ways to incorporate mental health awareness into your everyday life, whether this is listening actively to someone sharing how they’re feeling with you, or avoiding terminology that diminishes mental health problems (like “crazy”).

Further Resources and Reading

“Domestic Violence and Mental Illness: ‘I Have Honestly Never Felt So Alone in My Life’” by Faridah Newman

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Sexual Assault

Each year approximately 207,754 sexual assaults occur in the United States (RAINN). However, despite that astounding number, sexual assault is still not widely discussed.

To conclude Sexual Assault Awareness Month, please read this list of 10 things you might not know about sexual assault. Sexual assault is not just rape or attempted rape — it is any unwanted sexual contact or advances, preventing someone or being prevented from using birth control and/or rough or violent sexual behavior. Read the definition from The National Center for Victims of Crime to learn more.

1. One in every 10 sexual assault victims is male (RAINN).

2. Sexual assault occurs as often during the daytime as it does during the night (Stanford Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Prevention & Support).

3. Forty-four percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18. Eighty percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 30 (RAINN).

4. Victims of sexual assault are more prone to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, trouble sleeping and anxiety disorders (CDC).

5. Two-thirds of assaults are perpetrated by someone whom the victim knows. Thirty-eight percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim (RAINN).

6. Nearly one in four women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime (National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence).

7. Half of all sexual assaults happen within one mile of the victim’s home (RAINN).

8. Out of every 100 sexual assaults, only 46 get reported to the police. Out of those 46 reports, only 12 will lead to an arrest. Out of those 12 arrests, only nine attackers will be prosecuted.

9. Out of those prosecutions, only five will lead to a felony conviction. Despite those five convictions, only three of the perpetrators spend a single day in jail. That means that 97 attackers walk away unscathed (RAINN).

10. Some good news: the instances of sexual assault have decreased nearly 60 percent since 2000, although they are still staggeringly high (U.S. Department of Justice).

Despite the decrease in frequency over the past decade, sexual assault is still an extremely prevalent and pervasive crime in the United States. Please take a moment today to spread awareness about this critical issue.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Eating Disorders and Domestic Violence: Is There a Correlation?

Since it was recently National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we wanted to take a second to talk with you about the relationship between domestic violence and eating disorders.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines these illnesses as extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can be life-threatening.

Like domestic violence, the root of eating disorders is a need for control.

However, unlike with domestic violence, this need for control does not come from a place of feeling superior or entitled to power. Instead, people who suffer from eating disorders often feel that they have no control over their lives or the things that happen to them, they feel inadequate or have low self-esteem or they suffer from severe depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness.

NEDA lists troubled family and personal relationships and history of physical or sexual abuse as two of the greatest interpersonal factors which cause people to develop eating disorders.

People who are suffering from eating disorders often use their obsession with food as a means of gaining back the control and order which they feel has been taken from them or lost in other aspects of their life.

Victims of domestic abuse have been stripped of their power and have very little to no control over their own lives or actions. They are physically and emotionally abused and are often deeply depressed and self-conscious. Abusers often isolate their victims from their families and friends so they feel as if they have no one to turn or talk to.

All of these things converge and form a kind of perfect storm and so it’s very likely that a person who is suffering from abuse will develop an eating disorder.

We want to remind you that if you or a friend or family member is a victim of domestic violence, we are here to help. We want to provide resources and guidance so that we can reduce the instances of self-harm in response to abuse.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please contact the NEDA information and referral hotline today at 1-800-931-2237.

As always, we encourage you to contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline if you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHBH: Taylor Shares Fears About Marriage With Friends

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In last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we see the end of the trip with the housewives to Camille’s ski property. In a conversation between Taylor and Kyle, Taylor shared the anxiety she was experiencing about her failing marriage. A combination of altitude, wine and feelings seemed to overwhelm Taylor as she broke down and displayed emotions ranging from anger to paranoia and depression.

The other ladies showed concern for Taylor, asking her to talk about her situation and offering her their thoughts on her situation. After a moment where Taylor succumbed to tears, Adrienne piped up, “Sometimes two separate happy homes are better than one miserable home.”

From what we have heard of Taylor’s interview on Entertainment Tonight and from watching Taylor struggle on this episode, we know there is something majorly wrong in her relationship. In last week’s episode, she expressed that she was scared, and last night, she confirmed that she was afraid for her child.

Here are moments of this episode that we’d like to point out:

  • When Taylor says she’s scared, the other housewives don’t ask her to clarify. They never directly confront what is making her afraid.
  • Hotline Help: If a friend opens up to you and uses a word like “scared,” “afraid,” “nervous,” “intimidated” and other red flag words, it’s ok to ask for more information. You can ask, “Do you feel safe in your relationship?”.
  • Alcohol seemed to fuel Taylor’s candor. Consuming alcohol can be seen as a coping behavior and may be another red flag.
  • Hotline Help: If you see a friend reach for the bottle whenever he/she discusses their unhealthy relationship, point out this behavior to them when they are sober. It may sound like, “Hey, I’ve noticed you mostly talk about your relationship when you’re drinking.” Let them know that you want to take the opportunity to talk without alcohol present.
  • Kyle didn’t talk about Taylor’s situation when she had reunited with her husband Mauricio because she didn’t want him to think that she didn’t have a good time on the trip.
  • Hotline Help: If you ever are worried about a friend, it’s ok to use the people in your life as your sounding board. If your friend’s behaviors are striking you as off or concerning, talk about it with someone else and air your concerns. Silence might perpetuate your friend’s suffering.
  • It can be hard to know what to say to a friend in need. Make sure you stay away from areas of victim-blaming. This exchange perked our ears:
    Lisa: “Don’t you really feel that maybe you really deserve better than the way you’ve been treated. Really?”
    Taylor: “I think I don’t believe that. “
    Lisa: “That’s the problem, isn’t it?”
    While Lisa was trying to help, her approach placed the guilt on Taylor, making Taylor believe that she had done something wrong.
  • Hotline Help: No one chooses to be in an abusive relationship or wants the abuse to continue. Remember to be supportive and non-judgmental. Respect your friend’s decisions and do not criticize them. Remember that it’s easier to talk as an outsider looking at the relationship than the other way around.
  • This was an emotional trip for the housewives. As they returned home, especially in light of what Taylor had shared, we were concerned that no one asked her the crucial question, “Do you feel safe going home?”
  • Hotline Help: After a friend shares that they worry about their safety, or the safety of a child, address their physical needs by asking if they feel safe to go back to the house.

Are you ready to have the conversation? If you need help or would like more information about how to support a friend or family member, please contact us at The Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month and this dangerous and unpredictable crime is often seen in domestic violence situations. Three in four victims are stalked by someone they know and more than 3.4 million adults are stalked each year in the United States.

The theme for the 8th annual observation of this awareness month is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” which encourages people to learn what constitutes as stalking, recognize it when it happens, and put an end to it. Stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

Those who are victims of stalking sometimes suffer in silence. They have anxiety, social dysfunction and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population. Stalking also affects their ability to go to school or work. Stalkers often use technology to track their victims. They install spyware on computers and use global positioning systems on cell phones.

This January, learn more about stalking and how you can help spread awareness of this crime in your community. For more information, please visit the Stalking Resource Center.

Parents, if you need help talking to your teen about stalking or you worry that they are currently being stalked, please direct them to a post by loveisrespect on the issue.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Dating Abuse

The following blog entry was written by Emily Toothman. She graduated from The University of Texas in 2005.  She is now 26 years old, working as a Program Specialist at The National Domestic Violence Hotline.  In February of 2007, she had the honor of answering the first call to the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

I was 19, a student in my second year at college, when I met the man of my dreams in one of my classes.  He was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and All-American — with a smooth demeanor and a knack for saying all the right things.  He treated me like a princess.  Gifts, surprise visits to my dorm room and classes, frequent phone calls to see where I was and how I was doing.  He told me he loved me within the first month of our relationship, and he wanted to be near me all the time.  On our first anniversary, he surprised me with a candlelit dinner in a house overlooking the lake.  I was living the fairy tale that every little girl is taught to dream.

But then, two weeks after our first anniversary, I found him in bed with an ex-girlfriend.  I immediately broke up with him.  It was only then that I began to truly see his controlling nature.

I started to see him everywhere I went.  He showed up to my classes and sat two rows behind me.  I caught glimpses of him walking a couple paces behind me on campus.  Pretty soon, he started calling my cell phone constantly, leaving up to twenty voice messages a day begging me to reconsider our relationship.  When I started hanging out with other guys, he would follow me and leave threatening notes under the windshield wipers on my car.  My professors started to confide in me that “my boyfriend” had told them about my “drug problem.”

I returned home one evening after going to a meeting on campus, and he was on my doorstep.  He was drunk, and he was angry.  As his anger escalated, he began to shove me around and pin me by my neck against my front door, smashing empty beer bottles against the corner of the building and holding the shattered glass up to my face.  He had simply snapped.  I escaped to a friend’s house an hour later with a broken rib, a sprained wrist, a black eye, and bruises from head to toe.

Following the first attack, I took some self-defense lessons from a friend of mine who was a black-belt in karate.  I stayed with some friends so that I didn’t have to go back to my apartment alone.  I felt like everyone was looking at me, even though I had carefully caked on make-up to cover the bruises.  It took me days to build up the courage to leave the apartment to go to class.  I was terrified, and I felt more alone than ever.  Though I have always been close to my parents, I refused to tell them.  I felt that they would be hurt, worried – or worse – disappointed in how I’d handled the situation.   My friends, though they tried to be supportive, had a hard time even believing what was happening.

A week later, he confronted me again.  This time, he was sober, and it was in broad daylight in the center of campus.  He once again pinned me to the wall, but this time he threatened me with a butterfly knife to my jugular.  Students would walk by and stare, but not one interfered.  I struggled with him for close to a quarter of an hour, and finally, I managed to kick his knee backwards.  It broke.  As he was writhing on the ground, I used my cell phone to call the police.  A week later, he would break bail and leave the country.  I would never see him again.

The experience did change me – sometimes for the worse, but (I hope) mostly for the better.  I had to struggle with fear, anger, depression, insomnia, and even nausea.  I had to mend the breach of trust that my parents felt when they found out about my situation after the fact.  I’ve had to fight to break down my defensive walls, so that I could be less guarded in my romantic relationships and less cautious in my friendships.  It has not been easy.

But — to be completely honest with you – I wouldn’t change a moment of my experience for anything in the world.  It shook me to the core.  It created a passion in me for justice and peace, and it led me down a path that I would have never expected.  It led me here, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  I will always remember, with the highest gratitude, the role that my experience has allowed me to play in reaching out to survivors.

Dating abuse is a reality for many, many teens across this country — a terrifying, overwhelming reality that is largely hidden and ignored.  I wish that I had known at the time what I know now, thanks to the work of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: I am not alone.  I am not the only one to have experienced what I experienced, and I am not the only one who has decided to turn those experiences into positive changes for others like me.  I am very honored to be a part of such an amazing generation of young people who will start the conversation about dating abuse, and who will change the realities of young people across the nation.

By Emily Toothman

Please visit  for resources on teen dating abuse or to chat with a peer advocate. If chat is unavailable, call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. loveisrespect has recently been called on for its expert guidance by the popular soap opera General Hospital for a teen dating abuse storyline. The storyline will air today, Friday July 17th and a PSA will air directly following the program.