Advocate, HELP of Door County

May was a pivotal month, not just for blooming flowers and warmer weather but also for raising awareness about mental health. It was a time to shine a spotlight on mental health challenges, and one of the most significant contributors to these struggles is domestic violence (DV). Did you know that one in four women and one in seven men experience intimate partner violence? This isn’t just about physical harm; it deeply affects mental well-being too. 

DV and mental health is a web of trauma, fear and shattered self-worth. Survivors often battle anxiety, depression and PTSD. Sadly, the link between DV and mental health creates a dangerous loop. Mental health issues can make individuals more vulnerable to abusive relationships, while the trauma of abuse can worsen existing mental health struggles. The cycle is often compounded by feelings of shame, guilt, and fear, trapping victims in silence and preventing them from seeking the support and help they desperately need. 

So, how do we break this cycle and create a path to healing? It starts with awareness and education. We need to stop believing the myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health and DV. We need to foster empathy and understanding within our community. Suppose we normalize conversations about these issues and create safe spaces in workplaces, schools and the community where survivors are believed and can share their stories. In that case, we can remove the fear and shame that often keeps individuals silent. 

Legal changes are crucial, too. Strengthening laws to protect victims, improving access to resources and ensuring that reporting abuse is safe and effective are essential steps in supporting survivors and holding abusers accountable. By incorporating trauma-informed practices, officers can reduce the risk of further harm and encourage more victims to come forward and seek help. This approach can ensure that law enforcement responses are victim-centered and trauma-sensitive. 

When individuals take legal steps to protect themselves, a trauma-informed judge is necessary to create a safe and supportive courtroom environment where victims feel heard, validated and respected through the process. It’s important to consider how trauma may affect a victim’s ability to present evidence or recall details of events. Enhancing protective measures will reduce the likelihood of further abuse or retaliation. 

Take a moment to imagine a world where every neighbor, friend, family member and stranger understood the weight of mental health struggles and responded with compassion; a workplace where mental health days are not only accepted but encouraged; schools teaching children at a young age to show empathy and prioritize mental well-being as well as academic success; health care systems that ensure accessible and affordable care for all individuals who are healing and recovering. Let’s make that imagination into reality. 

You could be why someone chooses to keep fighting, seek help and believe in a brighter tomorrow. Your willingness to listen and understand could be the lifeline that saves a life. Everyone has the power to make a difference, one act of kindness at a time. 

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.