Relationship dangers for women with mental disabilities. - Stress Solutions at Turning Point Counseling

Project Description:

Women with  severe mental health-related disabilities are nearly four times more likely to have been a victim of intimate partner violence than those without a disability, according to a new study done at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. The study is published in the most recent issue of journal BioMed Central Public Health. The authors of the study were,  Janice Du Mont and Tonia Forte.

In the study, researchers examined a sample of 6,851 women who reported contact with a current or former partner in the previous five years and found:

    1. Nearly 45 per cent of women with severe mental health related disability reported experiencing discrimination in the previous five years, compared to 15 per cent of women without any mental health related disability.
    2. More women with a severe mental health related disability reported lower levels of trust toward family, neighbors and people from work or school and a weaker sense of belonging to their community.
    3. More women living with severe daily activity limitations reported lower household incomes.
    4. Rates of all types of violence — emotional, financial, physical and/or sexual — were higher among women with both severe and moderate mental health disabilities.


I have noticed this trend in my practice. Families, spouses and partners believe they can get away with abuse because the woman is “crazy”. Police, child protective services and prosecutors tend to believe the person who appears to be normal over the person who has been diagnosed as having mental problems. This only encourages the abuser and causes the abused woman to give up hope that anyone will ever believe her. Another trend that I have noticed is prominent people who will be drawn to people with milder forms of mental disabilities. They seem to need someone they can dominate and humiliate. They present one face to those at work and the community and a completely different one at home. If a divorce eventually occurs, the woman is usually left with nothing – bullied into accepting terms advantageous to her partner.

Janice Dumont, the co-author of the study said, “For women with a mental health-related disability, the consequences of experiencing discrimination can be devastating. It may lead to social isolation and put these women at greater risk for harmful or abusive relationships, discouraging them from seeking help from their abusive relationship and their mental health problems.” Women who struggle with mental disabilities need to know that there is help. Counseling can help strengthen them and teach them that they are valuable and can learn to stand up for themselves and get out of abusive relationships.

Stephen Willis