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Domestic violence’s impact on mental health

Tina has been with John since they met in college nearly 20 years ago.  She always has seen their relationship as “normal” and rarely has questioned how he treats her until recently, when she recognized that she constantly feels like she is “crazy.”

Tina tries to connect the dots from what she knows to be true compared to what John tells her. She can’t seem to do anything right. John has undermined her in every way, including when it comes to parenting their children, and has accused her of things that she did not do. He mocks any effort she makes to become someone separate from him. Her has never allowed her to have real control over her life and decisions.

She has difficulty remembering times when she felt anything other than sadness and dread. She feels tired constantly and has little interest in engaging in activities she once loved. She finds it difficult to even leave her home. Back in her high school and college days, Tina was outgoing and involved in extracurricular activities. Now, she struggles with doing anything beyond going to work and coming home. She recently realized that she may need to seek professional help to address this significant impact on her mental health.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Our mental health controls how we think, feel and act. According to the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, more than half of women who are seen in mental health settings are currently in, or have been in, abusive relationships. Many of these individuals are diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumatic experiences have intense and long-lasting impacts on mental and physical health. The anxiety, fear, shame, sadness and chronic stress that come with domestic violence can significantly change someone’s ability to maintain her mental health.

If you or someone you know is in, or has been in, an abusive relationship, help is available. The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence offers a holistic approach to working with anyone who has been impacted by interpersonal violence. Services include a safe shelter, individual and group therapy, case management, court advocacy, a therapeutic preschool program and civil legal services. If you need help, please call us at 228-435-1968 or 1-800-800-1396.

Stacey Riley is the chief executive officer of the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence. Reach her at

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