A CONSEQUENCE OF AND STRATEGY TO PREVENT VAWG
Poor mental health is recognised as a risk factor for and consequence of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Conversely, mental health interventions show striking potential to strengthen violence prevention and warrant integration into prevention programming.
This page gives key resources and selected examples.
- Men’s poor mental health—including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—is associated with perpetration of intimate partner violence.
- For women, symptoms of common mental health problems—including depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation and behaviour, eating disorders, and postpartum depression—are associated with experiences of intimate partner violence.
- Children’s mental health can be affected by experiencing peer violence and by witnessing their mother experiencing violence.
- Vicarious trauma is a significant risk for people working in the field of gender-based violence and is associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD-like symptoms, and burnout.
“THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT WOMEN WHO EXPERIENCE VIOLENCE ARE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS OF COMMON MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AND THAT THESE CAN BE ALLEVIATED WHEN VIOLENCE STOPS.”
Violence prevention efforts can have positive impacts on women and children’s mental health, even without specific mental health treatment. Empathy, self-esteem, emotional regulation, resilience, and stress management can be critical protective factors to prevent VAWG.
Even when VAWG prevention reduces mental health problems, women may still require further treatment, underscoring the need for services to address the psychosocial and mental health impacts of violence. Prevention projects need to ensure staff safety and strategise to prevent and respond to vicarious trauma.
Brief interventions by lay providers in low- and middle-income countries can successfully reduce depression, anxiety, and trauma-related symptoms. Integrating such strategies will strengthen violence prevention interventions.
NOTE: Addressing poor mental health is a strategy under both the United Nations framework to reduce violence against women (RESPECT) and the United Nations strategy to reduce violence against children (INSPIRE).