Experiencing domestic or sexual violence or can have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing, mentally and emotionally. It is widely acknowledged, for example, that domestic abuse is a leading cause of ill mental health.

If you’ve just left an abusive relationship, or you’ve been a victim to sexual violence or harassment, you may find yourself feeling low, guilty, isolated or angry, and may experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

These symptoms can include:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless, low self-esteem
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • A sense of dread
  • Irritability
  • Having no motivation or interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of energy, disturbed sleep, tiredness
  • Specifically for anxiety: feeling dizzy, shaking or sweating excessively

Read more from NHS. If your feelings of depression and/or anxiety are ongoing, seek help from your GP who will be able to signpost you to the best emotional support.

Looking after your mental health as a survivor of violence

It’s important to understand that everyone will feel differently after they have been through a traumatic experience, such as fleeing an abusive relationship or being sexually assaulted. It is completely normal to feel angry or sad for some time. However we want you to know that you’re not alone, support is available, and there are ways you can look after yourself now to help heal yourself and feel happier and more at ease.

Seek specialist support

Firstly, don’t be afraid to seek help. Whether you have a pre-existing mental health condition, or feel that since experiencing abuse or assault you are struggling with your mental wellbeing, speaking about how you are feeling with a mental health professional could be hugely helpful.

If you find yourself needing to speak to someone, there are specialised support helplines and organisations which you can get in touch with. We’ve included some of these organisations at the end of this page. You can also visit the Get Help page for a list of services and their contact details, who can speak to you in more detail about the support available.

You may find it helpful to start by opening up to someone close to you, a family member or friend you trust who can support you in your journey towards seeking support for your mental wellbeing, and be there if you need a helping hand.

Practice self-care

Secondly, practicing good self-care is a good way to look after yourself and empower you to feel more confident and comfortable.  Self-care, when it comes to mental health, is the use of techniques and steps to manage and help to prevent the symptoms of your mental health problems.

Some self-care steps which you could find useful are:

Connecting with other people > if you’re feeling low, spending time with family or friends can uplift your mood and help you to talk through how you are feeling sand make sense of things more. Try to spend time with friends and family, those who make you feel valued. This could be as simple as a phone call to a friend. You could join a class at your local sports centre, or volunteer at a charity or local community project.

Practice relaxation > when you experience a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, you may find you do not spend as much time doing leisurely activities which you usually enjoy. Try to spend time each day doing something you find relaxing, this could be going for a walk, listening to your favourite music, reading, or baking.

Look after your body > you may have experienced physical violence and feel as though you are not in control of your body. Gentle exercise such as yoga, stretches, or brisk walks can invigorate you and help to lift your mood, giving you a sense of empowerment and strength.

It can help to join a walking/yoga/exercise group, where you can be part of a structured class and receive support from your teacher and fellow classmates. You can also try out following online tutorials such as for relaxing yoga sessions, which you can access for free on streaming websites such as Youtube.

Remember that you deserve happiness

Thirdly, remember that you are not at fault. You deserve to feel safe. Spending time to practice self-care in its many forms can be empowering, through connecting with others, spending time doing the things you enjoy, relaxing, and looking after your physical health. You deserve to be happy.

We’d love to hear what your tips on taking care of your mental health are are – let us know on Twitter @UKSAYSNOMORE.


Concerned about someone you know?

If you are concerned that someone you know may be experiencing abuse, visit the How to Help page for guidance on the steps you can take to ensure your friend or family member feels supported. You can also download the Bright Sky app, which contains questionnaires to determine the health of your relationship or that of someone you know, and offers a nationwide directory of domestic abuse support services, which you can search by current location, postcode or area.

Need to speak to someone?

You can get in touch with the organisations below:

Samaritans

08457 90 90 90 | samaritans.org 

Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge

0808 2000 247 | nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

Safeline (for men, women and adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse)

0808 800 5008 | main helpline | 0808 800 5005 | male helpline | 0808 800 5007 | young people’s helplinesafeline.org.uk

The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Northern Ireland

0800 389 4424 | therowan.net

National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* (LGBT) Domestic Violence Helpline

0300 999 5428 OR Freephone 0800 999 5428 | galop.org.uk

Survivors UK: (for adult male survivors of rape or sexual assault)

Web chat / Send a text to 020 3322 1860 | survivorsuk.org

The ManKind Initiative (for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse)

01823 334244 | www.mankind.org.uk

Men’s Advice Line (for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse)

0808 801 0327 | mensadviceline.org.uk

Mankind Counselling (for men who have experienced sexual abuse)

01273 911680 | mankindcounselling.org.uk

Karma Nirvana (for those experiencing honor-based abuse and forced marriage)

0800 5999 247 | karmanirvana.org.uk

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Looking after your mental health as a survivor of violence
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