Association of Mental Health Providers

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Women’s Mental Health

MHPF attended a roundtable event hosted by Agenda, an alliance for women and girls at risk. The roundtable brought together specialists from government, the NHS, academics and the third sector to consider how women’s mental health services, particularly for women facing multiple disadvantages, can work smarter and in a more gender-informed way.


There are significant gender differences in relation to mental health. Women’s life experiences, socio-economic realities, expressions of mental distress, pathways into services and treatment needs and responses, differ greatly from those of men. For example, women tend to experience more common mental health disorders than men across their lives: more depression, more anxiety, more eating disorders and more PTSD (Working Towards Women’s Wellbeing, 2010).

Agenda’s research report, ‘Hidden Hurt’ shows that the difference between men’s and women’s rates of mental ill-health is closely linked to the fact that women experience much more abuse, both physical and sexual, than men. 84% of those who experience the most extensive physical and sexual abuse are women and of those, over half have a common mental disorder.

What we know:

There has been limited focus on women’s mental health in recent years, except for a specific focus on women’s perinatal services in the recent Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. MHPF has pulled together some key information and statistics regarding women and mental health, which can be accessed by our members on our website.

In 2007, the Corston Report made recommendations in relation to the mental health and wellbeing of women who have suffered from violence and domestic abuse. Additionally, last week’s media focus on anxiety carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Westminster City Council, funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research, stated that women were found to be twice as likely to be affected as men (female: male ratio of 1.9:1). This was consistently the case across different countries and co-existing health conditions.

NHS England, Department of Health and Public Health England were present at the roundtable and there was a commitment that the specific needs of women should be identified when planning and implementing mental health strategy and that the benefits of doing this needs to be understood.

DH areas:

  • Appointing an equalities champion;
  • Increasing access to perinatal mental health support for 30,000 women by 2021 – this is a major programme of work;
  • Responding to increasing rates of self-harm; looking at the impact of trauma in early life and self-harm;
  • Encouraging victims of sexual abuse to disclose and access support through sensitive enquiries in substance misuse services, GUM clinics, CAMHS and other services;
  • Working with the Children’s Society on a ‘Seen and Heard’ programme to help people who have been abused and create a network of champions;
  • Training IAPT therapists in trauma;
  • Working to develop an appropriate response for women who have suffered FGM;
  • Bringing mental health needs into major news and political narratives around sexual abuse (e.g. the Rotherham cases), human trafficking and FGM;

The attendees then discussed:

  • Prevention, early intervention and pathways into care
  • Skills and training
  • Commissioning
  • Evidence and data

MHPF will be having further discussions with System Partners in relation to provision and would like to hear from you if you offer specialist support or deliver women’s only services. Please let us know:

  • What services you deliver and how they were developed
  • What relationships are like with stakeholders
  • Commissioning of services – Facts and observations regarding the commissioning climate and any changes.

Please send the information to  by 15th July.