WOMEN’S mental health will be driven to the top of the agenda as the Government today outlines key principles for better gender and trauma-informed care.
The Women’s Mental Health Taskforce – chaired by Minister Jackie Doyle-Price and Katharine Sacks-Jones, Chief Executive of women’s charity Agenda – has today set out its key principles for gender and trauma-informed care in its final report.
The taskforce was set up in 2017 to tackle evidence of deteriorating mental health among women and poor outcomes experienced by those using support services.
Drawing on women’s own lived experience of mental ill-health heard through a series of focus groups, it encourages commissioners, providers and practitioners to promote best practice in their organisations while taking into account women’s individual, gender-specific needs.
Minister for Mental Health Inequalities and Suicide Prevention Jackie Doyle-Price said:
“Women are more likely to experience common mental health conditions than men – this is particularly stark among young women, who are three times more likely than young men to experience a common mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression.
“Yet too often, we hear stories of women who describe feeling powerless when it comes to their mental health treatment, those who feel neglected by inadequate aftercare or, more alarmingly, those who feel at risk in inpatient services, whether that’s because of breaches in single sex wards or the fear of restraint or observations by male staff members.
“This just isn’t good enough. I’m determined that this report will take an important first step towards our aim of tackling the injustices facing women, while ensuring that no vulnerable woman slips through the net. I appeal to partners across the health, justice and social care systems to work together to drive forward our ethos and ensure that women receive the high-quality care they deserve.
“Mental health is a top priority for this Government and will be a key part of the upcoming Long-Term Plan for the NHS, which will help us drive the outcomes of this report forward.”
Today’s report considers how women’s roles as mothers and carers often influences their needs yet is rarely taken into account in the care they receive, for example little provision is often given to women in need to help them maintain relationships with their children and wider family.
It also looks at how many women who have been victims of violence and abuse often feel ‘retraumatised’ by their time in inpatient facilities, often because of contact with male staff members, while also looking at the multiple factors facing women such as experience of extensive violence, abusive, poverty or inequality, which can influence their own needs.
Other issues often affect women and girls more than men and boys – eating disorders are, for example, more common among women and girls than men and boys and young women and girls are more at risk of self-harm.
Though young men are still more likely to take their own lives than young women, the suicide for young women aged 20-24 is currently the highest on record.
Chief Executive of Agenda Katharine Sacks-Jones said:
“The Women’s Mental Health Taskforce was set up in light of rising rates of mental health problems amongst women and girls. The Taskforce heard how many women struggled to get appropriate support from mental health services and were sometimes left further traumatised by the treatment they had received. This is not good enough.
“The Taskforce identified an urgent need for support that better responds to the realities of women’s lives including their experiences of abuse and trauma and their roles as mothers and carers. We call upon government and leaders across the health service to heed the findings of this report and use the principles it sets out to improve the response to women’s mental health so that all women get the help they need when they need it.”
The report’s recommendations – to be led centrally by the Department of Health and Social Care alongside its Arm’s Length Bodies – are as follows:
- Explicitly considering women’s needs in all future mental health policy development, locally and nationally;
- Further embedding trauma-informed care by raising expectations across services and awareness across the system and developing the evidence base to demonstrate this value of these approaches;
- Supporting routine enquiry about violence and abuse in future policy development, including consideration of a requirement to gather and report data;
- Using the principles of the taskforce to inform service design and delivery so that there is better access for women and girls to gender-informed and gender-specific holistic services and after care, including through the women’s sector. The taskforce would like to see such support accessible in every area, providing specialist treatment for women including those from diverse groups e.g. BAME, LBTQ+;
- Recognising that women’s identities, and often their roles as mothers and carers, are important in individual treatment and in-service planning. Awareness needs to be raised of this across the system.
- Ensuring the safety of women in residential mental health care by ending breaches of single sex wards and pursuing robust policy, practice and reporting processes around sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Read the Women’s Mental Health Taskforce final report here.
Find out more about Agenda’s Women in Mind campaign to make women’s mental health needs a priority.