Bell Let’s Talk Day takes place in late January each year in Canada. The day shines a light on mental health in Canada and encourages people to talk about mental health in an open, positive, and encouraging way. Since 2011, Bell has donated $6 million and supported 344 organizations to improve access to mental health care, supports and services for people in Canada living with mental illness.
Bell Let’s Talk Day gives us the ideal platform to talk about the implications of domestic violence on mental health. Studies and reports have consistently concluded that the likelihood of experiencing mental health issues is significantly increased if a woman experiences domestic violence.
Experiencing Domestic Violence Will Likely Affect Your Mental Health
A study by Dutton et al. reported that the risk of developing depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD), substance abuse issues or feeling suicidal was 3 to 5 times higher for women who have experienced violence in their relationships compared to women who had not. In Canadian transition houses, it has been documented that over half of women suffer from major depression and over 33% suffer from PTSD. In Canada, the lifetime prevalence of depression for women is estimated to be 12.2%, and one study of mental health inpatient populations estimated that 83% of women in treatment had been exposed to severe physical or sexual violence as a child or adult.
It is clear that domestic violence can lead to an effect on the emotional and psychological state of a survivor. At Yellow Brick House, our counsellors are equipped to look for signs of mental wellness concerns and recommend our clients take appropriate steps to improve their mental health.
Signs To Look Out For
The signs of mental health issues are not always as obvious as we think. If you, or someone you know has been a survivor of domestic violence, here are some signs you should look out for:
- Over dependence or abuse of drugs, alcohol, smoking, or even food (overeating or not eating enough)
- Panic attacks
- Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
- Trouble making decisions
- Sleep issues (too much or too little sleep, consistently)
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal tendencies
- Extreme irritability
If you are worried about yourself, or someone else, this helpful checklist will help you assess symptoms and open up a dialogue with your Doctor: http://depressionhurts.ca/en/checklist/
Getting Help For Mental Health Issues For Domestic Violence Survivors
If someone is suffering from depression, getting medical treatment is essential, but it is also possible for people to help themselves along in the journey to better mental health. Taking certain steps can help treatment be as effective as possible, speed up recovery and help avoid the recurrence of symptoms is possible.
Avoid Drugs (including Alcohol)
Turning to drugs and alcohol to get through tough times is unfortunately very common. Alcohol in particular, because of easy access, can become a crutch for those suffering, however these immediate effects are deceptive: the feelings of relief dissipate quickly and these substances become toxic.
Stress, anxiety and depression generally have a disruptive effect on sleep. Either sleeping too much, or not being able to get enough sleep. Unfortunately poor sleep is both a cause, and an effect of suffering with mental health. Improving sleep, either with medical help, or by trying relaxation, meditation, warm baths before bed etc, will offer a large improvement in health. Avoiding drugs and alcohol is also important, as they are known to disturb sleep.
Becoming more physically active may seem like the last thing someone who is suffering with their mental health wants to do, but regular physical activity is related to improved mental and physical well-being. All of the research indicates that physically fit people are less vulnerable to depression, and that regular exercise can greatly reduce symptoms of depression for many people.
“Healthy body, healthy mind”, so the saying goes. Often, mental health issues affect the appetite, which is why maintaining a balanced diet can prove difficult. Eating healthy, nutritious food, and staying away from junk “comfort” foods will improve overall wellbeing.
Bell Let’s Talk Day is an ideal opportunity to open up a conversation if you are worried for your own mental health after becoming a survivor of domestic violence, or you are worried about someone you care about.
CAMH Women and Trauma Service
8 week outpatient program for women struggling with the impact of trauma on their lives which can have an affect on daily living activities. The program provides individual and group treatment, including dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), psychoeducation, and skill building and coaching. http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/care_program_and_services/womens_programs/Pages/womens_programs.aspx
Referral required: Yes, Psychiatrist or GP.
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental health is not only the avoidance of serious mental illness. Your mental health is affected by numerous factors from your daily life, including the stress of balancing work with your health and relationships. In this section you will find resources to help you stay mentally fit and healthy. http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/
Bell Let’s Talk
Developed in partnership with Dr. Heather Stuart, the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair at Queen’s University, here are 5 simple ways to help end the stigma that keeps too many who struggle with mental illness from seeking the help they need. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ways-to-help
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Report on Violence Against Women, Mental Health and Substance Use: http://www.canadianwomen.org/sites/canadianwomen.org/files/PDF%20-%20VP%20Resources%20-%20BCSTH%20CWF%20Report_Final_2011_%20Mental%20Health_Substance%20use.pdf
Canadian Women’s Health Network
Making the links: Violence, trauma and mental health: http://www.cwhn.ca/en/node/41607