Why do we need to keep women in mind?
- Women and men have different mental health needs and experience mental health issues in different ways. Women are more likely to face conditions like eating disorders, anxiety and self-harm whilst men often externalize their feelings and face higher rates of addiction and suicide
- Young women are at particular risk of mental health problems. Recent research for NHS Digital showed that 1 in 5 16-to-24-year-olds have self-harmed and post-traumatic stress disorder in young women has trebled to 13% in the last 7 years.
- Sexual exploitation, abuse and violence are huge drivers of trauma and poor mental health in women. Over half of women who have mental health problems have experienced abuse. We are especially concerned about women who face the most severe and enduring mental health problems where the links between abuse, trauma and poor mental health are particularly pronounced. Women who have such experiences need holistic support to tackle the underlying issues they face and the choice of female practitioners and women only services.
- Without the right support these women can spiral from crisis to crisis, with huge resulting costs to them, their families and society as a whole.
What we are calling for:
- Women’s needs to be explicitly considered in national mental health policy and strategy. The soon to be appointed Mental Health Equalities Champion needs to have a focus on women’s mental health and to champion a gender informed approach across the treatment spectrum.
- Every mental health trust should have a clinical lead for women’s mental health and a strategy to take into account women’s needs including the availability of gender-specific services and female care co-ordinators.
- ‘Routine enquiry’ about women’s experiences of violence and abuse should be standard practice across mental health services and be accompanied by proper support and pathways into care.
- Frontline NHS workers should receive training to understand that women’s mental health, trauma and abuse are strongly linked, and services need to work in a trauma-informed way.
- Dedicated, holistic women-only services for women with complex needs should be available in every area to provide a safe, therapeutic space for women to address their mental health needs and to open up about their experiences.
Is women’s mental health more important than men’s?
No, we aren’t saying that it is more important to improve women’s mental health than men’s but we are saying that women and men need different and tailored responses.