Fifth of women abused in intimate relationships have attempted suicide - research

Women’s Aid survey highlights severe impact that relationship abuse can have on young women’s mental wellbeing

More than 40 per cent of young women subjected to abuse by a partner or ex-partner have had suicidal thoughts and a fifth have attempted suicide, according to research from Women’s Aid.

The findings, contained in a survey of 500 women aged 18-25, highlight the “severe impact that intimate relationship abuse can have on young women’s mental wellbeing” says the charity.

These findings, from a survey conducted in 2021, are published in advance of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday.

Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation are among the impacts intimate partner abuse has on young women, it says.


“The same research shows 44 per cent of young women subjected to intimate relationship abuse experienced suicidal thoughts as a result and 19 per cent had attempted suicide.”

Part of the research, published last year as part of the charity’s #TooIntoYou campaign, focused primarily on the prevalence of abuse experienced by young people in intimate relationships.

It found one in five young women had experienced partner abuse and more than half of the women who were abused by a partner were under 18 at the time. The abuse included emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

The findings on the impact of such abuse have not previously been highlighted and are now published as part of a four-week multimedia campaign to raise awareness of intimate relationship abuse against young women and its “severe and lasting mental health implications”.

Mary Hayes, project lead of the #TooIntoYou campaign, said: “For a young person starting to make their way in the world, maybe in their first intimate relationship, abuse can completely knock their self-esteem.

“If it’s your first relationship you won’t have anything to compare it to, so you might accept abusive behaviours as normal. Psychological manipulation can be subtle, and it can be difficult for a young person to grasp that the controlling behaviours their partner is displaying are abusive, as they’re just trying to feel good about their relationship.

“When you are young and you are in an abusive relationship, it can be incredibly distressing and frightening. It can impact your self-esteem and mood,” she added.

“We have heard from many young women that the emotional toll [the] abuse took on them is what really stuck with them, even after the relationship ended.”

In one case, highlighted by the charity, a young woman given the name Orla said she was in a relationship with an “older boy” when she was 17.

“A few months in, he was adamant for me to stay in his house on the weekends. This is where the isolation began – not hanging out with my friends on weekends, not spending time with my family. If I was to hang out with friends or attend a birthday party, he would always join.

“After two years of this behaviour, I became a recluse. I felt so alone from falling out with my best friend and family over him. This made me feel even worse as I thought he was the only person I had left. I knew what he was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stay away. He had isolated me from all my family and my friends, and I felt like I had nothing left but him.”

Ms Hayes urged young women experiencing such abuse not to suffer alone, and for those who care about them not to minimise it, but to seek support.

Support available at: and Women’s Aid 24-hour national freephone: 1800 341 900

The Samaritans are available at 116 123 or email at

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times