Staying at home and abusive relationships

Page last reviewed: 11 September 2020

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 Coronavirus situation may make things worse - there are already reports of a rise in the number of those in difficulty. 

The fears and uncertainties linked to the Coronavirus may make perpetrators of abuse more tense, angry and unpredictable than usual and staying at home means more time in isolation with them. 

It also makes it harder to get away to calmer, friendlier and more respectful places where we can feel safer, more supported and better able to seek help. The Government has issued specific advice on this. 

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 the recommended distance of two meters from others) will give you a break from the other person and could be a chance to seek help.

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 methods 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.

It may also be helpful to:

1. 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.

2. Check in with others

If it feels safe to do so, we could check on vulnerable neighbours, family members or friends, to get some time in places that are away from home and where it may be safer to get support or help. Using a GP phone service may be another way to contact others outside of our home, whom we could ask for help.

3. Reach out for information and support

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. If you live in Wales, Welsh Women’s Aid is here, Scottish Women’s Aid is here and click here for Women’s Aid in NI.

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.

Apps like Bright Sky may also be helpful. This looks like a weather app so if a partner has control over personal devices, it should not be noticeable. Bright Sky provides information on what abuse is, links to information and resources, and a secure journal to record incidents of abuse secretly, without it being saved to your device

If it is safe to do so, call a telephone helpline for support, either with mental health generally or with difficult relationships in particular:
  • Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247
  • The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
  • The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
  • Rights of Women advice lines, there are a range of services available

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.