Women with a mental health-related disability are four times more likely to experience intimate partner violence, according to a new study by Women’s College Hospital.
The study, released Jan. 30, was published in the BioMed Central Public Health journal.
Lead author Janice Du Mont and co-author Tonia Forte are the first researchers to focus a study on intimate partner violence in women with a mental health-related disability in a Canadian-based population, the study stated.
Previous reports on intimate partner violence and disability combined physical, and psychological disabilities.
“We wanted to look specifically at the role of mental health related disability and intimate partner violence,” said Du Mont.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada said that in an individual lifetime, one out of five Canadians will be diagnosed with a mental health issue, said Dr. Rummy Gill, manager of counseling services at Humber College.
“Any vulnerable group, whether it is because of gender, age, socioeconomic status or disability, they tend to be victimized more because they are vulnerable,” she said.
Intimate partner abuse includes, physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, the study said.
Abuse by a partner is often recurrent and causes physical and psychological damage, study said.
The study examined 6,851 women who experienced abuse in the past five years with a former or current partner.
Nearly 45 per cent of women with mental health-related disability reported abuse compared to 15 per cent of women without disability, study said.
An individual can have a mental health disability before they experienced partner violence or after, the correlation can happen either way.
“Individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence may develop a mental health related disability,” said Du Mont.
Women who suffer from a mental health-related disability are more likely to experience lower levels of trust and belonging in their community, family, school and friends, study said.
The prevention of intimate partner violence, one of the most common human rights violations globally will reduce the amount of mental health-related disabilities among women, said Du Mont.
“I think we need a better understanding of the interconnection between violence and mental health. We need increased collaboration between mental health services and women’s violence services,” she said.
However, primary prevention involves improving the socio-economic status of women living in lower household incomes, said Du Mont.
“Women who lack adequate resources and support are at increased risk of intimate partner violence, but also (have) difficultly leaving abusive relationships,” she said.
“The biggest things are opportunity to health care, education, and opportunity to financial independence. Those are the keys to being healthier,” said Gill.