Feature Article

Gender-based violence and women’s mental health: how should the GP respond?

Susan Rees, Jane Fisher



Dealing appropriately with gender-based violence is a national priority and women often turn to their GPs first for recognition and assistance. Undisclosed abuse may be the cause of unexplained mental disorders and GPs should adopt an empowerment approach to encourage women to disclose the abuse.

Key Points

  • Primary care is a key entry point in the health system for identifying women with mental health problems associated with gender-based violence.
  • GPs should be aware of the likelihood that undisclosed gender-based violence may be the underlying cause of unexplained mental health symptoms.
  • Many women require medium- to long-term support from a network of specialist agencies that include medical, social and legal services. The GP may facilitate women gaining access to these services over time.
  • An empowerment approach where women are encouraged to disclose and are believed to be telling the truth, and where men’s violence is identified as a crime and a social problem, is important.

    Picture credit: © BillionPhotos.com/Dollar Photo Club. Model used for illustrative purposes only.