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

LGBTQ Relationships and Abuse

Approximately 23 percent of LGBTQ men and 50 percent of LGBTQ women experience abuse from their intimate partners (VAWNET). This means that members of the LGBTQ community are slightly more likely to experience abuse than straight couples.

Same-sex partners who are abusive and controlling use all the same tactics to gain power & control in relationships as heterosexual abusive partners – physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, financial control, isolation, etc. But same-sex partners who are abusive also reinforce their tactics that maintain power & control with societal factors that compound the complexity a survivor faces in leaving or getting safe in a same-sex relationship.

Same-sex abusive partners use discrimination and rejection to control their partners, and may threaten to ‘out’ them to family members, employers, community members.

• Survivors may experience incredible isolation in LGBTQ relationships that are abusive. Friends or family may have rejected them, distanced themselves or made unsupportive, homophobic statements when the survivor came out or talked about their relationships.
• It may be hard for someone who is LGBTQ to recognize that their relationship is abusive, especially if it is their first time being in a same-sex couple. They may simply think that this is what all same-sex relationships look like because they don’t have the experience to tell them otherwise. This misconception may also be encouraged by their abusive partner.
• Some legal remedies that are available to heterosexual survivors are not available to gay, lesbian, trans or bi survivors. Because some states do not legally recognize same-sex relationships, survivors may be unable to seek protective orders. Same-sex survivors who are immigrants are unable to self-petition under VAWA.

If you are in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship and not sure where you can get support, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here 24/7 and serve everyone affected by domestic violence.

We can help connect you to local programs, including some, like these, that specifically serve the LGBTQ survivors of partner abuse:

Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse
Seattle, WA

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project
Cambridge, MA

The Network la Red
Boston, MA

New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
New York, NY