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How Gender-Based Violence Can Impact Mental Health

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Gender-based violence is a serious issue that can affect any individual at any point throughout their lifetimes. But how gender-based violence can impact mental health varies from case to case. Any sort of violence can have a lasting impact on mental health for those who witness or experience it. In fact, studies show that gender-based violence can lead to long-lasting mental health complications and increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to a heightened risk for mental health conditions, those who experience violence regularly are at a higher risk for physical health conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. Through this article, we will discuss who is affected by violence, what gender-based violence is, as well as what the lasting effects of gender-based violence can be.

Who Is Affected by Violence?

Anyone can be a victim of violence at some point throughout their lifetimes. However, people who are most likely to experience violence are women, children, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. People who are at risk of being displaced from their homes or experiencing financial struggles are also at a higher risk of being a victim of gender-based violence.

Family violence is one of the most common and complex forms of violence that occurs throughout the world today. In Canada alone, nearly 760,000 citizens have experienced unhealthy conflict with their spouses which resulted in abuse or violence within the past five years. In addition to this, one in three Canadians has reported that they have experienced abuse before the age of 15. This sort of violence can happen at any point in an individual’s lifetime and every case is unique in its own right. For that reason, the lasting impacts of violence on mental health can vary from case to case.

What Is Gender-Based Violence?

Gender-based violence is recognized as a significant health issue by multiple institutions, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), gender-based violence includes any harmful acts that are directed toward an individual based on their gender. This is not as straightforward as just random acts of violence, however. Gender-based violence is rooted in systemic inequality among genders. It often has to do with the abuse of power among genders and harmful norms or societal expectations of specific genders.

What Are the Lasting Effects of Gender-Based Violence?

The long-lasting effects of gender-based violence on victims can vary greatly from case to case. Some of the most common effects are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the risks of developing substance abuse issues or becoming suicidal were also much higher for individuals who have experienced violence at some point in their lifetimes. Other lasting issues of gender-based violence may include trouble sleeping and frequent, debilitating anxiety in addition to many other concerns. Because the effects of gender-based violence are different depending on the individual who has experienced them, victims of violence should attend therapy regularly so that they can determine a plan of care that is unique to them on their journey back to mental wellness.


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