By Anila Baig

NO-ONE goes through life unscathed and the breakdown of a relationship is second only to bereavement in terms of how much it can impact our mental health.

Sometimes people are lucky and separations go relatively smoothly but for others it can be like a domestic nuclear bomb going off and decimating the family with long term effects on every single member of the household.

In the fourth of our series looking at mental health we speak to a young mum who was left reeling after the break- up of her marriage and how counselling brought her back from the brink.

LISA and Pete were like any other young couple in love.

She knew he had suffered a mental breakdown before they met but in all the time she had known him things were going well.

“He was stable and working and everything was fine. But after our second child I noticed a difference.

"Pete would start drinking at breakfast time, he told me he didn’t want to work anymore then he was saying he didn’t want to live.

"He was self-harming and made several attempts on his life.

“I did my best to support him and we went to the doctor where he was diagnosed with a personality disorder and put on medication.

"With help from the GP, he started doing better.”

But after their third child was born Pete dropped a bombshell, suddenly announcing that he didn’t want to be married any more.

“It was a total shock. I knew we had problems but I wasn’t expecting him to say he wanted a divorce.”

After the initial shock Lisa found herself adapting quickly, despite the fact that the youngest was only a few weeks old.

“In a way it was a relief. I hit the ground running and got on with it the way you have to when you have small children.”

She was keen for her children to maintain a relationship with their father who was still self-harming.

When her daughter - who was only five - started innocently started drawing marks on her wrists ‘to be like daddy’ Lisa’s life spiralled into despair.

“The children were my priority and I had to do what I could to protect them.

"This caused problems with my ex who thought I was doing it deliberately to alienate the children from him.”

On one particularly stressful occasion he took the youngsters away without informing Lisa and she called the police only to be told that as they were with their father she had to pursue him through the courts.

“I didn’t know where he had taken them or if I would ever see them again. I was absolutely distraught.”

Throughout the relationship Pete had been suspicious and manipulative, when the marriage broke down he stepped up the mental abuse.

“I have been in a domestic abuse relationship where I have nearly been killed and I would say the psychological warfare unleashed when my marriage broke down was even more terrifying.

“He accused me of physically attacking him which I never did, he said I was harming the children and I was investigated by social services. All of it was lies.”

It all had a devastating effect on Lisa’s mental health.

“The whole family was impacted.

"My older child was a wreck and I had to seek counselling for them too. There was no peace.”

Going through the courts meant the children were assigned a psychologist and a guardian and the whole family was assessed. This also brought long-buried issues into the open.

“I honestly felt like I was losing my children. It was a terrible time and I thought the courts were taking the father’s side.

"Looking back now I realise it was my anxiety that was making me feel like this and the courts were doing their best.”

She wasn’t sleeping or eating but Lisa was reluctant to visit her doctor.

“I was suffering horrendously and, by then, I was suicidal myself.

"The damage done to me was huge but I didn’t want to be put on medication, I had been down that route before and while it is great for some people I felt it would just numb me.

"I needed better coping strategies and to learn how to keep myself safe.”

Instead she turned to Aire, Wharfe and Craven Counselling.

“I had had counselling before which was like talking to a friend, non-judgemental but not really challenging, whereas this was totally different.

“This was real therapy where we talked about the issues and my reaction to them.”

Through the sessions Lisa was able to unpick problems going back to her childhood.

She discovered she had attachment issues herself.

“I had the best parents, two very lovely people, but through the therapy I saw how I had been made to feel like I wasn’t good enough and that coloured the way I was with my ex and my children.

“It really had a profound effect on me.”

The counselling sessions were tough.

“The first few weeks I cried. I cried a lot. These were hard issues to tackle and in the early weeks I would just be in tears the whole time.

"But gradually I started to get stronger.”

She has since met a new partner and taken on his children too which was unexpected and again the counselling helped to ‘blend’ the family.

“During lockdown those feelings of anxiety started to creep back but I have been having sessions over the phone.

"I honestly feel like a different person now and my partner has commented about how happier I am.

Lisa urged anyone feeling out of their depth to seriously consider therapy.

“I would strongly encourage people to consider therapy. All my sessions were free as I have had to give up work to look after the children.

"Counselling has been a lifeline.

“Do not underestimate how much the right therapy can change your life. Even when you feel the most desperate you’ve ever felt there is hope.

"There is so much stigma around therapy and there doesn’t need to be.

"It’s the best thing that I have ever done to heal myself and everyone deserves this chance.”

Laura Brown, service manager at Aire Wharfe and Craven Counselling, echoed Lisa’s words.

“Counselling is a safe space for people to explore the reasons why they are stuck at a certain point or in a certain mind-set.

"Sitting regularly for an hour with someone facilitating the process can be invaluable in helping people get to know themselves, reflect on their past behaviours and plan for the future.”

* For more information on counselling contact AWC Counselling on 01535 288 336 or email

Bradford Survive and Thrive is a consortium which launched in October 2019, and is made up of the charities Staying Put, Family Action and WomenCentre, providing a one-stop-shop for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

Together the organisations provide early intervention and prevention, specialist work with children and young people, recovery and confidence building and packages of practical and emotional support, and access to high quality crisis support, accommodation and housing.

Families struggling with abuse can receive help for parents, carers, children and young people.

Support workers speak a variety of Eastern European and South Asian languages including Urdu.

Yasmin Khan, CEO of Staying Put, said: “We want people to know that we are here to help support anyone who is experiencing domestic or sexual abuse.

"Thousands of people call our helpline every year and we can make a difference to their lives.

“We know this is a particularly difficult time for many people, so if you are struggling with abuse, please do reach out to us so we can help you.

"We will provide emotional and practical support to women, men, and children affected by domestic or sexual abuse, enabling people to live safer, happier lives.”

The consortium has one free helpline, open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, when a dedicated and specialist team take calls from those in need on 0808 2800999. گھرلو زیاثی میں مطلہ نہ رہے اس نمبر پر کال کریں: 0808 2800999.

Affordable Legal Services @ Staying Put offers expert, specialist legal advice for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. The Freephone number is 0800 077 3065 or email

This article has been supported by Bradford Council.