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#LetsTalk: Overcoming the Stigma of Depression and Domestic Violence for World Health Day

April 7, 2017

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recognizes April 7th as World Health Day. This year, the World Health Organization raises awareness about depression, a disorder that affects over 300 million people worldwide. Survivors of domestic violence are nearly twice as likely to suffer depressive symptoms compared to women who have not experienced domestic abuse. [1] These symptoms include: a loss of energy, change in appetite, change in sleeping habits, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, restlessness, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. [2]

The effects of depression can be debilitating and significantly impact a survivor’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, such as going to work or maintaining relationships with family and friends. [3] Experiencing multiple types of abuse can increase the risk of developing mental health symptoms. [4] Additionally, survivors have voiced many concerns about prejudice and bias regarding mental health, as their mental health status is often used against them by abusers and when they seek services. [5] Abusers may also attempt discredit or undermine a survivor who suffers from depression in custody battles or other court-related services and among family and friends. [6]

gray image with nnedv logo reads, an abuser may attempt to discredit or undermine a survivor who suffers from depression in custody battles and among family & friends

NNEDV’s 10th annual Domestic Violence Counts: Census Report found that in just one day, 37 percent of services provided to survivors by local domestic violence programs were related to mental health support and advocacy. However, in the past year, 59 programs have been forced to eliminate or reduce therapy and counseling services for adults, while 53 programs for children were also reduced or eliminated. The lack of adequate resources directly translates to fewer survivors receiving needed mental health services. [7]

A better understanding of depression and how it directly impacts survivors of domestic violence can shift the stigma associated with mental health and trauma. Ultimately, it may lead more survivors with depression to seek the services they need. NNEDV continues to advocate for survivor empowerment by raising awareness about the unique barriers many survivors face and the importance of securing funding for domestic violence programs that provide critical services, such as mental health advocacy and counseling, to help survivors of domestic violence and their families.

Learn more about World Health Day, depression, and trauma:


[1] Beydoun, H.A., Beydoun, M.A., Kaufman, J.S., Lo, B, Zonderman, A.B. (2012). Intimate partner violence against adult women and its association with major depressive disorder, depressive symptoms and postpartum depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 75(6), 959-975.

[2] World Health Organization – Depression: What you should know

[3] World Health Day Campaign Essentials

[4] . Houry, D., Kemball, R., Rhodes, K.V., Kaslow, N.J. (2006). Intimate partner violence and mental health symptoms in African American female ED patients. American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 24(4), 444-450.


[6] Warshaw C., Lyon E., Bland P., Phillips H., Hooper M. Mental health and substance use coercion survey: Report on findings from the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2014.

[7] Domestic Violence Counts: Census 2015 Report