A Triple Pandemic: The Implication of COVID-19 on Domestic Violence and Mental Health

PADV Crisis Mental Health Advocate

Summary Points

  • There has been an increase in intimate partner violence due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and its social restrictions led to increases in the rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health symptoms. Vulnerable populations including single parents and communities of color were particularly affected. Not only did violence increase, but instances of abuse became more severe. Abusers used COVID-19 restrictions as a tool in their toolkit of abusive tactics. And while the global population battled COVID-19 and increases in domestic violence, so too did mental health concerns jump to the forefront of expert discussions. Although public health mandates, such as social distancing and wearing masks were necessary to reduce further spread of COVID-19, they served to create isolation and anxiety among the general population. Pre-pandemic only 10% of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. However, this number increased to 40% since January 2019. These statistics were particularly high in women. Children were also affected with pediatricians seeing higher volumes of patients reporting eating disorder symptoms and suicidal ideations. Media outlets created hotlines and established resources that normalized the increases in stress, grief, and anxiety during the pandemic. However, mental health clinicians often were not provided training in public health issues to adequately deal with new clientele. Recognition by clinicians on how the increase in IPV interacted with mental health needs was often absent. Therefore, a large subsection of the population, those affected by IPV and mental health, was not adequately prioritized during the pandemic. This presents a major gap in services. Abusers often used survivors’ mental health needs and pandemic fears and restrictions to further traumatize and abuse their partner. If we want to adequately address and interrupt the relationship between domestic violence and mental health, we need to directly address both phenomena. Here are steps that can be used when working with survivors: 1) create an emotional safety plan; 2) explore or emphasize survivor’s strengths; 3) implement mindfulness exercises; and 4) model and highlight setting personal boundaries.

 

Resources

  • Call 911 – For mental health crises, specify that you’d like an officer trained in crisis
    • intervention to report to the call.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (English): 1-800-273-8255
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Spanish): 1-888-628-9454
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline – Call or Text: 1-800-422-4453
  • Partnership Against Domestic Violence Crisis Line – 404-873-1766

 

For more information on intimate partner violence/domestic violence, please visit Partnership Against Domestic Violence website.

Author: Dr. Shatel Francis

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