The last couple of weeks have been difficult ones to be a woman watching the news. As the details of Sarah Everard’s story emerged, many of us have been left feeling devastated and helpless, hearing the tragic story of a young woman just trying to walk home from seeing her friend. It has been an uncomfortable reminder of the issues women can face on a daily basis.
As we’ve marked recent calendar moments celebrating women such as International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, the irony is we’ve also lit candles to honour Sarah, highlighting how far things still need to come. Across the country, conversations have been happening online, on private messages, in the workplace and in households around how it feels to be a woman. The general consensus? We have all felt unsafe, none of us can stop thinking about Sarah and we all feel affected by what’s happened. While this has united us and made us realise we are not alone, the feelings that have arisen are also emotionally exhausting and potentially have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing.
All too often we disregard our experiences and ‘don’t want to make a fuss’, but as the outpouring of grief and emotion this week has shown, we need to keep talking.
While the news is distressing for many, the widespread coverage has also prompted other questions and feelings, particularly around the coverage of similar incidents that have happened to Black people. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that the number of Black homicide victims in the last year, at 105, was the highest seen since the year ending March 2002 (107 victims), yet these haven’t received the same coverage. It is understandable to be feeling the mental effects of this too.
At Shout 85258, a large percentage of our texters are young women. Females make up the largest proportion of the people who contact us (80%) and nearly 50% of these women are between 18 and 34 years old. Women are four times more likely to talk to us about sexual, emotional or physical abuse, when compared to male texters.
Abuse is often thought to be a factor in many women's mental health problems. 53% of women who have mental health problems have experienced abuse. Physical and sexual abuse of girls and women can have a long-term impact on their mental health, especially if no support has been received around past abuses, and this trauma can result in many long term effects and mental health issues.
Having strong support networks and relationships, being able to talk about our experiences with one another can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing and help us deal with these issues.
Some of the conversation feedback we get from texters highlights how people just needed to be listened to and heard, talking can often be the first step, even if it’s confidentially with someone you can trust:
“Thanks very much for being there for me, I am not used to that!”
Our data shows that 89% of conversations mentioning domestic abuse are with women, and these account for 1% of our conversations every day. In conversations where people talk to us about domestic abuse, 27% involve emotional abuse, 16% involve physical abuse, 10% involve sexual abuse, 5% involve child abuse and 3% involve another or unspecified type of abuse.
Other issues presented by texters in conversations that involve domestic abuse are relationship issues - in almost half of domestic abuse conversations (47%), depression or sadness (28%), suicide (27%), anxiety or stress (26%), loneliness (19%), self-harm (9%), Covid-19 (5%).
More clearly needs to be done to tackle the root causes of mental health problems among women, and it is vital that anyone facing these issues reaches out for support and early intervention to get the help they deserve. All too often we disregard our experiences and ‘don’t want to make a fuss’, but as the outpouring of grief and emotion this week has shown, we need to keep talking.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this blog or by recent news events, you don’t have to face it alone. Our volunteers are here to listen and support you, no matter what you’re going through.
You can text SHOUT to 85258 any time day or night to speak to someone confidentially. The service is free on major mobile networks and won’t appear on your bill.
Other resources you might find useful:
Black Minds Matter: Connecting Black individuals and families with free mental health services — by professional Black therapists to support their mental health.
Women’s Aid: Supporting women and children affected by domestic violence
Refuge: Offering a range of services that give women and children access to professional support whatever their situation.
Rape Crisis England and Wales: Help and support for people affected by rape and all issues related to sexual abuse.
Rape Crisis Scotland: Help and support for people affected by rape and all issues related to sexual abuse.
Rape Crisis Ireland: Help and support for people affected by rape and all issues related to sexual abuse.
Victim Support: Victim Support provides emotional and practical help to victims or witnesses of any crime, whether or not it has been reported to the police.