Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health

Between November 25th and December 10th, Canada observes 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). GBV impacts every aspect of an individual’s life, including their mental health. Here, we’ll explore the connection between the two. 

Gender-Based Violence is any type of violence (sexual or otherwise) inflicted on a person or group of people because of their gender. It intersects with other groups that experience higher levels of violence, such as 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, Black and  Indigenous women, and females living in remote, rural areas. Gender-Based Violence disproportionately affects women and girls.

16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence

One of Canada’s most publicized accounts of GBV occurred on December 6th, 1989, when 14 female students at Polytechnique Montreal were murdered in a horrific act of misogyny. 

Women between the ages of 15 and 24 are most likely to experience Gender-Based Violence in their homes.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian social programs saw an increase in demand for support from women in this age group. 

This year marks Canada’s 30th annual observance of these 16 days, but countries all over the world also observe them because GBV exists everywhere. 

Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health

There is no question that Gender-Based Violence is deeply connected to mental health. Fifty percent of women who experience gender violence have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Women who experience violence are 3-5 times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, depression, experience suicidal ideation, and problems with substance use.  

Women with existing mental health-related disabilities are more likely to experience violence than men with mental health-related disabilities.

The statistics are endless and overwhelming. 

When women experience violent trauma, their mental health is in serious jeopardy. It not only affects their present and their future but also impacts the future of their families and loved ones. 

Getting Help 

Unfortunately, people living with serious mental illnesses are less likely to report GBV when they experience it. This lack of justice can further perpetuate the symptoms they already experience from their mental illness. 

If you have experienced Gender-Based Violence, know that you are not alone. And it is not your fault.

You can access one of the government’s crisis lines for Gender-Based Violence here. Specifically in Ontario, you can contact the Assaulted Women’s Helpline. It’s important to note that the Assaulted Women’s Helpline operates 24/7 and offers assistance in 200 different languages.

As mentioned above, young adult women experience a disproportionate amount of GBV. A sad fact, 10 per cent of Canadian women experience sexual assault while they’re still in postsecondary school. 

Resources specifically for young adults include the Kids Help Phone. You can also search by province in this directory for services supporting victims of Gender-Based Violence.

When it comes to getting help for your mental illness, start by telling someone you trust about what you are experiencing. Book an appointment with your physician; they may refer you to a psychologist for a formal diagnosis. Most importantly, know that help is available. 

This section of our website offers information on different mental illnesses, treatment options, and ways to support yourself and others. 

How Eli’s Place Supports Victims of Gender-Based Violence

We understand the connection between Gender-Based Violence and mental illness.  When we open our doors we will be committed to helping those who have experienced Gender-Based Violence and are living with severe mental illness develop the skills they need for recovery. Learn more here. 

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