Women’s mental health needs not considered by services, campaign group says

Women’s mental health needs are not being considered “adequately”, despite the rising rate of female suicide, a campaign group has advised.

Agenda, an alliance of more than 60 groups for at-risk females, revealed that just one of the 57 mental health trusts studied has a gender-specific strategy.

They found that just over half of the trusts had no policy of routinely asking female patients about their experience of domestic abuse – a scheme recommended by the national Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Despite there being no mandatory requirement for the NHS to provide gender-specific mental health services, the Department of Health (DoH) said it was “vital” that all mental health care took gender into account.

A DoH consultation document from as far back as 2002 said “There will be the need to provide single-sex services in some instances”, but as of yet, no observable evidence of such scheme has been put into place.

It further said that all organisations should aim to ensure that they are “sensitive to gender” and “the specific needs of women”.

NICE has urged mental health services to ensure that staff are trained to routinely identify the symptoms of domestic violence and abuse.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, director of Agenda, said: “Our mental health trusts are not adequately considering the needs of women.

“Women facing poor mental health are among the most vulnerable people. The majority have experienced violence and abuse and many report needing women-specific spaces to feel safe.”

According to official annual figures for the UK, the female rate of suicide increased from 4.8 to 5.2 deaths per 100,000 people, while the male rate decreased from 17.8 to 16.8.