Staying at home and abusive relationships

Page last reviewed: 07 March 2021

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.

For people in abusive relationships, the lockdown restrictions have made seeking support challenging, with more people feeling isolated and support networks cut off overnight.

The fears and uncertainties linked to coronavirus may make perpetrators of abuse more tense, angry and unpredictable than usual. It may also be harder than before the pandemic to escape to places where we can feel safer, more supported and better able to seek help. 
The charity Refuge reports a large increase in calls to its helpline (call 0808 2000 247) for people experiencing domestic abuse, in the 10 months since April 2020. 
Government rules do clearly allow people to leave their homes in order to escape domestic abuse. This is true across the UK. There is no requirement to stay trapped with our abusers. 
Furthermore, support remains available and there are services available to help. Despite the lockdown restrictions and guidelines still in place, we can still leave home to seek support. 
For those of us in abusive relationships, some of the ways we can support ourselves during the Coronavirus outbreak are the same as for those whose relationships are not abusive. 
This includes trying to stick to a daily routine that supports our mental and physical health. For example, going outdoors for a walk or run (while staying within current guidelines) will give you a break from the other person and could be a chance to seek help.
If your internet browsing history is not being monitored, then it might also be helpful to join online discussion forums. These could be ones aimed at people in abusive relationships, such as this one run by the charity Women’s Aid. Or they could be on completely different topics, for example, music, local action to help people affected by the coronavirus, or other interests you may have. 
We should also continue with our usual methods of keeping ourselves and our children safe, where these are still possible.
If you are in immediate danger, call the police or an ambulance on 999. If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and then press 55. This will transfer your call to the relevant police force who will assist you without you having to speak.
And remember, government rules clearly allow people to leave their homes, in order to escape domestic abuse. The fears and uncertainties linked to the coronavirus may make perpetrators of abuse more tense, angry and unpredictable than usual. It may also be harder than before the pandemic to  escape to places where we can feel safer, more supported and better able to seek help. 

It may also be helpful to:

Stay connected to those you trust

If it’s possible, we can use technology (like phone, e-mail or messaging apps) to stay in daily (or more frequent) touch with people who know our situation, like friends, family, colleagues or neighbours. This will help us stay connected and will show the perpetrator that other people know how we are - and may alert others if they don't hear from us.

Reach out for support and information

The crisis charity Hestia has opened 5,000 Safe Spaces in pharmacies across the UK for people experiencing domestic abuse. Users will be shown the consultation room, where they will find specialist support contact details. To find your nearest Safe Space click here. 
If it is safe to do so, you can download the Bright Sky app from your app store to access information and advice, as well as contact details of nearby specialist support services. You can visit for more information.
As well as the Government advice, a list of local services for people experiencing domestic abuse is available in a directory run by Women’s Aid.
Women’s Aid also offers support through email and instant messaging services, as well as a Survivor’s Handbook with information on subjects like housing and dealing with the police. 
If it is safe to do so, call a telephone helpline for support, either with mental health generally or with difficult relationships in particular:
  1. Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247
  2. The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
  3. The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
  4. National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
  5. Rights of Women advice lines, there are a range of services available
  6. The Everyone’s Business Advice Line is available to any business or organisation in the UK who would like free support, guidance or information regarding domestic abuse and how to support employees and colleagues enduring domestic abuse in the workplace. The Advice Line is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm via phone on 07770480437 or 0203 8793695, or email [email protected].

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

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Public Health England have developed explicit guidance on mental health in the crisis. If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can also visit the PHE Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.