Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health.

Gender-Based Violence has a great impact on the mental health of not only victims but people close to victims too. Hardly is the effect of gender-based violence on one’s mental health discussed. Since May is internationally set aside as ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’, we had a twitter chat on “Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health”.

The speaker, a mental health advocate, Mrs. Lucky Amy Bittor, engaged us in an insightful discussion. She’s the founder of PsychAid and Love Outreach, an NGO whose advocacy is focused on mental health.

According to Mrs. Bittor, mental health is “a state of well being (social, emotional and psychological). It has got to do with how we think, feel and act and our ability to function in our day to day lives”. She indicated that there’s a relation between gender-based violence and mental health. Effects of abuse like stress, anxiety, low-self esteem etc, affects the well being of the victim, hence affecting his or her mental health.

It is worth noting that any form of gender-based violence can affect a person’s mental health. Whether physical, emotional or economical, these forms of abuse have the tendency of negatively affecting one’s mental well being.

Being able to detect the signs of a mental dysfunction in a person is very important.

Mrs. Bittor stated that, to be able to detect someone suffering from an imbalance in his or her mental health, you will identify that the person’s functionality or ability to cope with daily life becomes altered or is not normal. Then there’s a cause for alarm. She also emphasized that an individual showing these signs cannot and should not self diagnose, but instead seek professional help.

There are also instances where individuals live in self-denial of their mental dysfunction. Mrs. Bittor highlighted that it will be difficult for a person to handle such a situation since to him or her, there’s no problem. It is therefore the responsibility of the person close to the victim to gradually give him or her an understanding of the situation and the need to get help. She further gave a tip on how to approach the situation. She said it is wrong to blame them or force them to wise up. Instead it is advisable to remind and keep reminding  them that it’s no fault of theirs and assure them you are there for them.

A victim’s past GBV experience may have triggers that can result in depression consequently. Victims may suffer from anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. This happens often when the victim is in the same environment or sees the perpetrator or experiences a similar event.

The good news is that victims of a mental dysfunction can get medical help. “Recovery is very possible!”, Mrs Bittor exclaimed. She said that victims only have to be consistent with therapy  and their medications. Also having the full support of family and friends is a great way of recovering faster.

Families can help victims of a mental dysfunction when they stop “victim blaming” and rather consistently show their love and support. They need to be there for them and assure them they will be fine. Encouragement is a better option than stigmatization in dealing with victims of gender-based violence.

People can get help from the psychiatric units of hospitals in this country. Three public mental hospitals in Ghana are; Accra Psychiatric, Pantang and Ankaful. Some private hospitals were also identified where one can get treatment. Do find them in the embedded tweet below.

Anyone who experiences a dysfunction in his or her mental health as a result of gender-based violence should get help as quickly as possible. We each have a role to play in the quick recovery of such persons. Let’s stop stigmatization and victim-blaming, and help them get better by showing love, encouragement and support.

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