The Sunday News
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is described as any type of violence perpetrated on a person or group of people because of their gender and affects mostly women and girls.
On the other hand the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
As we commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence this year let us not forget to put more emphasis on the mental health because it is as important as our physical well-being.
GBV survivors often experience deep psychological trauma and these effects can be long-lasting and severe.
There is no question that Gender-Based Violence is deeply connected to mental health, because about 50 percent of women who experience gender violence have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse as well as suicidal ideation.
Women with existing mental health-related illnesses are more likely to experience violence than men with the same predicament.
Unfortunately people living with serious mental illnesses are less likely to report GBV when they experience it and this lack of justice further perpetuates the symptoms that they already experience from their mental illness. Violent trauma experienced by survivors not only compromise their mental health but also affects their future and that of their families, friends and communities.
How counselling helps
Counselling plays a critical role in the prevention and management of gender-based violence and support for survivors by:
ν Empowering the survivors by helping them to understand their priorities, strengths, resourcefulness and resilience. They are able to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment without being judged.
ν Counselling helps survivors to recover from the trauma, anxiety and depression experienced from GBV. They are able to manage their emotions, feelings and thus find healing.
ν Counselling also explores root causes of the violence and underlying issues so as to prevent any such incidences in future. Perpetrators are also invited for counselling for behaviour change and can also confront harmful gender norms that influence stereotypes in our society.
ν Counselling provides safe spaces for children that are affected by GBV and empowers them with life skills to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the spread of GBV.
ν Counselling provides data on trends and the impact of violence on the general quality of life for individuals in our society. This information is also critical for advocacy on policy changes.
Mental health and psychosocial needs are deeply connected with GBV. Survivors are often struggling to cope with profound emotional and psychological trauma. Counselling attempts to address these psychosocial needs which are critical in helping survivors rebuild their lives. It is also important for communities to heal, learn and break the cycle of violence.
Kahle Counselling Hub: Your Mental Health is our Priority