domestic violence mental health awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month we will post articles and resources for patients, staff and website visitors. We will also feature members of the Behavioral Health team and how they can be reached. If you would like to schedule an appointment to speak to a member of the Behavioral Health team, please contact your primary care clinician for a referral. If the appointment is for a child, please call 314-814-8700. 

may is mental health monthMay is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Since its inception in 1949, the Mental Health America organization has worked to increase awareness and spread the word that mental health is something everyone should care about. The theme of Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 is “Look Around, Look Within.” This month, challenge yourself to examine your world and how it can affect your overall health – from your neighborhood to genetics, many factors come into play when it comes to mental health. Each week we will focus on a mental health topic as well as highlight our Behavioral Health Team at Affinia Healthcare. 

The focus for the this week is Intimate Partner Violence.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. This abuse is considered invisible because it is usually tied to a high level of shame and secrecy. An intimate partner is a boyfriend, girlfriend, sexual partner, spouse, or domestic partner with whom a person is currently or formerly connected.  IPV has a common pattern of behavior in the relationship dynamics between the couples: the honeymoon phase, the initial tension building phase, the acute battering phase, and the honeymoon phase again. These cycles feed into the denial, confusion and bewildering effects on its victims. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies four types of intimate partner violence—physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and emotional abuse 

  • Approximately 23% of women and 14% of men in the United States report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner. 
  • Nearly 16% of women and 7% of men report having experienced sexual violence (including rape). 

IPV Victims by Ethnicity 

Non-Hispanic Black Women 45% 

Non-Hispanic White Women 37% 

Hispanic Women 34% 

Asian Women 18% 

IPV Victims by Sexual Orientation 

Bisexual Women 61% 

Bisexual Men 37% 

Lesbian Women 44% 

Gay Men 26% 

Heterosexual Women 35% 

Heterosexual Men 29%                                                                                                       

What contributes to IPV? 

Interestingly, there are many similarities between the risk factors of victims and of perpetrators alike in IPV. 

  • Age (adolescents and young adults are most at risk) 
  • Low income or low educational attainment 
  • Unemployment 
  • Exposure to violence during childhood 
  • Experiencing child abuse, neglect, or poor parenting as a child
  • Stress, anxiety or antisocial personality traits 
  • Condoning violence in relationships 
  • Prior perpetration or victimization of IPV 
  • Engaging in peer violence or being a perpetrator of peer violence 
  • History of substance abuse or delinquency 
  • Having a hostile communication style 
  • Hostility or conflict in prior relationships ending in separation or breakup. 
  • Poverty in the community or living in a neighborhood with a low willingness of neighbors to get involved. 

Prevention is possible. 

Prevention can happen by changing the contexts and underlying risks that contribute to IPV in homes, schools, and neighborhoods. 

6 strategies to prevent IPV: 

  • Support survivors to increase safety and lessen harm. 
  • Teach safe and healthy relationship skills. 
  • Engage influential adults and peers. 
  • Strengthen economic support for families. 
  • Create protective environments. 
  • Disrupt developmental pathways toward partner violence. 

Source: CDC 

The focus the first week of May is on Depression and Suicide Prevention. 

We want to increase awareness among our patients and staff and are working toward a “zero suicide” campaign. Suicide can be the result of an unaddressed severe mental health condition such as Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. This “zero suicide” goal applies a quality improvement and safety framework to suicide and depression care throughout the healthcare system. We will keep you updated on the implementation of this initiative.  

Major depressive disorder is when you feel sad, down and empty or miserable most of the time. You might also lose interest in things you usually enjoy. Other symptoms include: 

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities. 
  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes. 
  • Difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping. 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. 
  • Feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness. 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness. 
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling slowed down. 
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. 

Everyone can help prevent suicide by learning the warning signs, promoting prevention and resilience, and committing to help those who are in need.  

What are some serious warning signs? 

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself. 
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun. 
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live. 

How can we intervene?  

  • Ask if they are thinking about suicide. Studies show that asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide does not increase suicide attempt nor does it increase suicidal thoughts. 
  • Be there for them. This could be by phone or in person. 
  • Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those who are at risk. Remember that in case of acute safety concerns, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency Room. 
  • Help them connect with ongoing support. Give the person the Behavioral Health Response (BHR) crisis number: (314) 469-6644 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 9-8-8 
  • Follow up.Give them a call or visit. Send a text or an email to let them know that you care.