Neoliberalism’s Impacts on
Mental Health(care) for
Women Survivors of Intimate
Partner Violence in Canada
CPHA Conference Presentation
Josey Ross
MA Candidate, Health Policy and Equity
York University
 At least 1 in 4 Women in Canada will experience intimate
partner or sexualized violence in her lifetime (McInturff, 2013).
 Victims of IPV experience short- and long-term impacts
ranging from injuries and mental health problems to lost
education opportunities and poverty (McInturff, 2013).
 IPV associated with PTSD, depression, eating disorders,
personality disorders and suicidality (WHO, 2013; Morrow, 2002,
p 18)
 Funding cutbacks and narrowing mandates of anti-violence
and mental healthcare services for survivors (Collier, 2009;
Morrow, 2002)
Why This Topic?
 Literature exists on:
IPV and mental health
Neoliberalism and public policy
Neoliberalization of anti-violence work
Neoliberalization of mental healthcare
Gendered nature of mental healthcare
 No literature exists examining impacts of neoliberal
policymaking on mental health of women survivors of
intimate partner violence
Impacts of Violence in
 Estimated $9 billion annually (McInturff, 2013)
 Higher healthcare utilization of IPV survivors than
general population (Varcoe et al., 2001)
 Mental health impacts (BCMOH, 2012)
 Differential rates of violence experienced by women
experiencing multiple sites of marginalization (BCMOH,
What is Neoliberalism?
 “A deliberate push for an emphasis on individualism,
and on consumption as a source of identity and a
vehicle for social participation” (Coulter, 2009, p. 26)
 “A movement away from a social state and
redistributive policies towards government that focuses
less on social programs…and more on optimizing
conditions for market activity and capital accumulation”
(Coulter, 2009, p. 26)
Neoliberalism and Public
 Privatization of services (Coulter, 2009)
 Delisting of services (Coulter, 2009)
 Public-private partnership arrangements (Coulter,
 Promotion and celebration of volunteerism, charity, or
fundraising as a substitution for public investment
(Coulter, 2009)
Barriers to Leaving
 Isolation, institutional failure, systemic barriers (Moe,
 Substance abuse issues, lack of safe housing, lack of
transportation (Zweig, Schlicter, and Burt, 2002)
 Fear of retaliation and stalking (Alabama Coalition,
 Cuts to social assistance, disability pensions, EI, public
housing (Braedley, 2007)
Neoliberalization of AntiViolence Work
 Conservative and Liberal governments cut funding to
anti-violence programs (Collier, 2009)
 Dismantling of programs fighting for women’s equality
(Beres, et al., 2009)
 Discursive reconfiguration of IPV as private, random,
and individual (Beres, et al., 2009)
 Dominance of managerialist outcome measures
(McDonald, 2005)
Applying a Gendered Lens to
Mental Healthcare
 Women’s mental health impacted and shaped by social
inequities (Morrow and Chappell, 1999)
 Certain types of mental health issues linked to IPV
(Morrow and Chappell, 1999)
 Mainstreaming (Humphreys, 2008)
Neoliberalization of Mental
 Shift from federal to provincial responsibility (Carney,
 Reliance on private sector providers and funding
(Carney, 2000)
 Adaption of corporate management practices
(Teghtsoonian, 2009)
 Focus on measurable outcomes (Morrow, 2002)
Impacts of Neoliberalism on
Survivors of IPV
 No existing literature
 Increased barriers to leaving abusive relationship
 Cuts to women’s services
 Narrowly-focused mental health services
 Neoliberal policies have had deleterious affects on:
Woman-serving agencies
Mental healthcare provision and access
Social determinants of mental health
Women survivors of IPV
 Next steps:
 Quantitative and qualitative research examining further
the impacts of neoliberalism on women survivors of IPV
living with mental health problems
 Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (No date given). Barriers to
leaving. Retrieved from
 British Columbia. Ministry of Health. Healthy Women, Children and Youth
Secretariat. (2012) A framework for addressing violence against women in
relationships: A supplement to the public health core program on prevention of
violence, abuse and neglect. Retrieved from Ministry of Health website:
 Beres, M.A., Crow, B. & Gotell, L. (2009). The perils of institutionalization in
neoliberal times: Results of a national survey of Canadian sexual assault and
rape crisis centres. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 34(1): 135-163.
 Braedley, S. (2007). “Accidental” health care: Masculinity and neoliberalism at
work. In Braedley, S. & Luxton, M. (ed) Neoliberalism and everyday life.
Montreal: MQUP.
 Carney, T. (2008). The mental health service crisis of neoliberalism—An
antipodean perspective. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 31: 101115.
References Cont’d
Collier, C. (2009). Violence against women or violence against ‘people’? Assessing the
impact of neoliberalism and post-neoliberalism on anti-violence policy in Ontario and
British Columbia. In Alexandra Dobrowolsky (ed.), Women and Public Policy in Canada
Today: Neoliberalism and After? Toronto: Oxford University Press.
Coulter, K. (2009). Women, poverty policy, and the production of neoliberal politics in
Ontario, Canada. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 30(1): 23-45. DOI:
Humphreys, C. (2008). Responding to the individual trauma of domestic violence:
Challenges for mental health professionals. Social Work in Mental Health 7 (1-3): 186203. doi:10.1080/15332980802072546
McDonald, J. (2005). Neo-liberalism and the pathologising of public issues: The
displacement of feminist service models in domestic violence support services.
Australian Social Work, 58(3): 275-284. doi:
McInturff, K. (2013). The gap in the gender gap: Violence against women in Canada.
Retrieved from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives website:
Moe, A. M. (2007). Silenced voices and structured survival: Battered women’s help
seeking. Violence Against Women 13(7): 676-699.
References Cont’d
Morrow, M. (2002). Violence and trauma in the lives of women with serious mental
illness: Current practices in service provision in British Columbia. Retrieved from British
Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health website:
Morrow, M. and Chappell, M. (1999). Hearing women’s voices: Mental health care for
women. Retrieved from British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health
Teghtsoonian, K. (2009). Depression and mental health in neoliberal times: A critical
analysis of policy and discourse. Social Science & Medicine 69: 28-35.
Varcoe, C., Hankivsky, O., Ford-Gilboe, M., Wuest, J., Wilk, P., Hammerton, J. &
Campbell, J. (2011). Attributing selected costs to intimate partner violence in a sample of
women who have left abusive partners: A social determinants of health approach.
Canadian Public Policy: 37(3): 359-380.
World Health Organization. (2013). Violence Against Women. Retrieved from:
Zweig, J. M., Schlichter, K. A., & Burt, M. R. (2002). Assisting women victims of violence
who experience multiple barriers to services. Violence Against Women 8(2): 162-180.
Contact me at
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Presentation - Canadian Public Health Association