Gender-based violence exacerbates mental health in the shadow of Covid-19
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Cape Town - While the economic, social, and physical health repercussions of the pandemic have already placed a burden on the nation, the increasing violence against women and children is seen to have jeopardised women's mental health.
According to psychiatrist Dr Yumna Minty of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), studies have shown that women who are victims of physical or sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners are twice as likely to experience clinical depression, with a greater risk of attempting suicide.
With women being fearful of walking alone in their neighbourhoods, even in daylight, Minty said that personal safety and becoming a victim of crime had become more of a concern among women than men.
"The fear contributes to heightened levels of stress and anxiety. This impacts women’s mental health, as women exposed to violence and trauma are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. They are also more likely to cope poorly with the general stresses of life, have low self-esteem and disordered eating patterns. That's why women live in constant fear of violence and threats to their wellbeing and that of their children from strangers, family members, and, worst of all, their intimate partners, " said Minty.
During the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, SASOP has called for firmer policy interventions and improved multi-stakeholder collaboration between government agencies, civil society, and NGOs for an integrated and coordinated response to the problem.
Executive Director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence & Torture Trust, Marguerite Holtzhausen, said that while it is easy to just fixate on the people who commit the murders, it is important that the nation as a whole take responsibility and address the levels of violence against women.
"At some point, we all have to take responsibility as a nation to address the levels of violence against women because, while it is easy to just fixate on the people who commit the murders, we forget that they grow up in a society where they are exposed to ideas and circumstances that make their violent behaviour more normal than in other places in the world."
"Currently, we are working on training Trauma Support Volunteers to support survivors of gender-based violence and recruit people who need counselling. We have male counsellors as well, speaking all of the main local languages of Cape Town in order to give people who have experienced abuse the opportunity to get counselling. We also do a GBV drama production to challenge ideas on gender and power and to highlight the institutional failures to address gender-based violence," said Holtzhausen.