Domestic violence can really wreak havoc on a person’s mental health, according to Anna Sellin, executive director at Lakes Crisis Center in Detroit Lakes.

The loneliness and tensions of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic can bring about greater levels of abuse and domestic violence, she said.

“This is an incredibly stressful time, with finances and jobs, schools, the unknowns of our health and the future in general,” Sellin said.

Lakes Crisis and Resource Center Executive Director Anna Sellin. (Submitted photo)
Lakes Crisis and Resource Center Executive Director Anna Sellin. (Submitted photo)

“We are a phone call away and we will not judge you or try to force you to do anything you aren’t ready to do,” she added. To start with, those living in a violent relationship may just want to get a safety plan ready, so when the next episode of domestic abuse occurs, they can safely leave, she said.

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For those who are worried that a friend or family member is being abused, “flat out ask them,” Sellin said: “‘Are you OK? Is everything going OK at home?’ They may tell you the truth, or they may not.”

Either way, it’s best to offer support and let them know you’re glad they’re fine and if anything changes you’ll be there for support.

Hold back on those disparaging words about the abuser, because the woman could choose to stay, and it will further isolate them if they know you disapprove of their relationship. “Just be supportive, and refer them to us,” she said.

These are very stressful times for a lot of people, so “let’s cut each other some slack, but also make sure we’re also taking care of each other,” Sellin said.

Kids, mental health, and domestic violence

Domestic violence can also impact the mental health of children in the household. “Studies show that children who grow up in homes with domestic violence have a lot more struggles with their education, and can have mental health issues, as well,” Sellin said.

It can be a tough time for kids, as well, with added tension in the home.

“If you have any suspicions that a child is being abused, please contact your local child protection department or contact us,” Sellin said. “We are mandated reporters and we will look into it.” The crisis center phone number is 218-847-8572.

If you’re worried about a child, reach out and befriend them if possible, she said. If you have a child the same age, maybe invite the other kid over for playdates or dinner. “You can be that positive role model in the child’s life,” Sellin said. That’s important because a lot of the regular safety nets went down with COVID-19.

“So many interveners have been removed from that child’s life at this time because they aren’t going to school, or perhaps not going to school consistently,” she said.

If the child sees you as a friendly person they can trust, there’s a good chance they’ll reveal any abuse they may be experiencing,” she added.

Mental illness and domestic violence

Domestic violence in general can increase a woman’s risk of developing various mental illnesses, including post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts, Sellin said.

There are physical effects from domestic violence as well, she added. “She could end up with a traumatic brain injury,” depending on the location of the injury, she said.

It doesn’t always reach the level of a mental illness diagnosis, but domestic abuse can cause people to shut down emotionally, and take away their self-awareness -- the ability to know what they want, plan for the future, and act on it.

“It can result in the lack of judgment,” Sellin said, leading people to go back to an unhealthy relationship or get into a new one.

Sometimes it’s mental illness that leads someone to get into a dangerous relationship in the first place, and other times domestic violence helps cause mental health issues in the form of depression, anxiety, and despair, she said.

Support groups at crisis center open

Both women and men can be victims of domestic violence, and the crisis center offers the same services to both, except men can’t stay on-site, Sellin said.

Not everybody who comes into the crisis center needs help with mental illness, but those who do are connected with the right resources, be it counseling or therapy, Sellin said.

The 27-bed crisis center has a counselor on staff and hosts domestic violence support groups, open to anyone in the community that wants to participate.

“We take a very holistic approach, we address physical, mental and emotional needs,” Sellin said. “We see the connection between domestic violence and mental health.”

Get into “Inside Out”

The 9-part series kicked off Nov. 30 and continues through January. Watch the videos on local station TV3, online on the lakestv3 YouTube channel, or at beckercountyenergize.com. Videos launch every Monday. Read the feature stories in the Tribune, in the Wednesday print editions every week of the series as well as online every Wednesday at dl-online.com.

The series schedule is as follows:

Generalized Anxiety During the Pandemic/Current World Stressors

TV3 video: Monday, Nov. 30 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 2

Anxiety/Trauma

TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 7 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 9

Farmer Depression and Suicide

TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 14 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 16

Bipolar Disorder

TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 21 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 23

Addiction/Recovery and Mental Illness

TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 28 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 30

Borderline Personality Disorder

TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 4 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 6

Mental Illness and the Judicial System

TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 11 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 13

Mental Illness as it Relates to Domestic Violence

TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 18 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 20

Mental Illness in the Elderly and Final Panel Wrap-up

TV3 videos: Monday, Jan. 25 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 27