Director of Woman’s Trust
Everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health. This may sound like an obvious statement, but for a very long time, mental health was not something people talked about or really considered. There was a huge amount of stigma around the experience of mental health problems.
While we are still a long way from physical and mental health being given parity of esteem, we have come a long way in recent years in terms of raising people awareness of mental health (the fact that mental health problems can affect anyone, indeed at any one time 1 in 4 of us will be experiencing some form of mental distress.
Sadly though many people still struggle to get the help they need to deal with their mental health this is particularly true for women who’ve suffered domestic abuse. When a woman leaves an abusive relationship or is trying to escape an ex-partner, the focus is understandably on keeping her and her children physically safe. It’s important to get her away from the perpetrator and tackle the practical issues such as where will she live, how will she secure an income.
In all of this it can be easy for the woman’s mental health needs to be overlooked, as needs can be complicated, and sometimes subtle. But at Woman’s Trust, we know that offering specialist mental health support to women who’ve experienced domestic abuse is fundamental to helping them rebuild their lives and develop the resilience needed to cope with what they have been through. That’s why we were set up 21 years ago – to offer free, person centred one-to-one counselling to women who have been victims of domestic violence. The impact of this support is life-changing for the women who seek our help: over two thirds said that after receiving help from the Women’s Trust they felt less suicidal and were less likely to self-harm. Nine out of ten said they had a better knowledge of their rights and felt empowered to make the best life choices for themselves.
There are many reasons why employers should support employees who may be affected by domestic abuse. From a financial perspective, it affects their bottom line: research has shown that in 2009, domestic violence cost UK businesses £1.9 billion in lost economic output caused by physical injuries alone. If the impact on women’s mental health was factored into these calculations this figure would undoubtedly be significantly higher.
Work can play a very helpful role in the lives of victims of domestic abuse. For many women, speaking to someone about their experiences is the first step in gaining support. That is why the Corporate Alliance’s work in assisting employers to take positive actions and develop support systems that make a difference to the health and wellbeing of employees is so important. This includes linking up to specialist services like the Women’s Trust.
To a woman who’s a victim of domestic abuse, this sort of support can literally be a lifesaver.