"It’s shameful that the clear link between domestic abuse and suicidal feelings among women has not previously been recognized as the public health crisis that it is," Agenda Alliance's deputy chief executive said.
Trigger Warning: The following content contains mention of suicide, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and murder, which may be distressing to some readers.
Women who experience domestic abuse are three times more likely to die by suicide than their peers. In addition to having a higher chance of suicide, people who have experienced sexual abuse in a relationship are seven times more likely to have made an attempt on their life.
It is the first scholarly study conducted in the UK to demonstrate a strong correlation between what the World Health Organization refers to as "intimate partner violence" (IPV) and women who have suicidal ideation, which includes making an attempt or even contemplating suicide. The research was conducted by Sally McManus, a health specialist at City University of London who worked on the charity Agenda Alliance's UK survey of adult mental health. McManus examined the 7,000 adults aged 16 and older who participated in the recent surveys. She counted the number of survivors of physical, sexual, emotional, or economic IPV, as well as those who had self-harmed, considered suicide, or actually attempted to die by suicide in the previous year. According to estimates, IPV affects more than a quarter (27%) of women over the course of their lives, per The Guardian.
According to McManus, women who are poor, jobless, unable to work due to illness or disability, or who are in debt are more likely to experience IPV. “When a woman presents to services in suicidal distress it is likely that she’s a victim of domestic abuse”, she said. “This is a public health crisis. Our findings show the long-term impact of abuse on someone’s mental health. At its worst it can be fatal,” she added.
A briefing by Agenda Alliance, based on McManus’s conclusions reveals, “While this briefing does not establish a causal relationship between IPV and suicidality, it demonstrates that experiencing IPV can act as a precursor to suicidality. It is concerning that some who die by suicide may be ‘hidden victims’ of domestic abuse, left uncounted and unrecognised.”
Jess Southgate, Agenda Alliance’s deputy chief executive, said: “The key findings are shocking and appalling. It’s shameful that the clear link between domestic abuse and suicidal feelings among women has not previously been recognized as the public health crisis that it is.”
“Our analysis is groundbreaking. The unique dataset shows that women in the UK who suffer domestic abuse are more likely than those who have not experienced abuse to have made a suicide attempt. The risk is worst for victims of sexual violence within a relationship,” Southgate added.
Women's rights activists call the results “shocking and appalling,” adding that they should prompt GPs, midwives, job center employees, and others who interact with vulnerable women to begin regularly enquiring about their personal safety.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Any woman who needs mental health support should come forward for help and talk to their GP or local talking therapies service, where you can self-refer. “There is more specialist help available for those who need it. NHS England also commissions sexual assault referral centres which provide a safe space and dedicated care for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or abused.”
If you're experiencing domestic violence, the nationwide number for help is: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224 or (206) 518-9361 (Video Phone Only for Deaf Callers). The Hotline provides service referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Alex Rudova