Evidence-Based Strategies for Better Mental Health for Abused Women and Their Children

Wednesday, 24 July 2013: 8:30 AM

Heidi Gilroy, MSN1
Lene Symes, PhD, RN2
Judith McFarlane, DrPH1
Angeles Nava, PhD1
Brenda K. Binder, PhD, RN, PNP1
(1)Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX
(2)College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University - Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe the meantal health treatment preferences of abused women with children.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify the effects of mental health treatment that abused women with children find most helpful.


Evidence supports the poor mental health of many abused women with high rates of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. An abused mother’s mental health is also strongly associated with the behavioral functioning of her children.  Evidence is lacking regarding what strategies abused women feel will improve their mental health and functioning.   


As part of a multi-year longitudinal study on abused women, 244 women with children were asked about their history of mental health problems, counseling and prescription treatments received, current treament, and perceived benefits. Age of first treatment was recorded as well as method of payment for mental health services.


Almost half (43.4%) of the women sampled reported counseling or medication to treat a mental health condition.  The rates are more than three times the national average for counseling (32.4% compared to 8.2%) and more than twice the national average for medication (32.8% compared to 14.7%). Many of the women said that medication (60%) and counseling (77.2%) were helpful, but more women rated counseling helpful.  The women rated “better functioning” as the most helpful result of counseling, and reported “calming effects” as the most helpful result of medication.  Although most women found counseling and medication helpful, the women continue to report clinically significant mental health problems with less than 10% of the women currently receiving treatment.     


Abuse to women is common and affects the mental health functioning of mother and child.  This presentation will describe intergenerational effects of abuse to women and propose an intervention plan for mothers to positively affect maternal mental health and promote child functioning.