British mental health services do not have a gender approach in care. Only one out of 35 NHS Mental Health Trusts has developed a mental health strategy with a gender approach.

The British organisation, Agenda: Alliance for Women & Girls at Risk, has done a survey of NHS Mental Health Trusts to identify if mental health centres have a mental health strategy with a gender approach. This organisation is an alliance of 60 entities that work to bring an end to inequalities, violence and abuse of women and girls. In April 2016, Agenda surveyed 35 out of the 57 trusts in England asking how they provide care to women in planning and service implementation.

The results of the survey show that half of the analysed trusts had no policy on ‘routine enquiry’, the practice of routinely asking female patients about experience of abuse. Furthermore, four out of five trusts do not offer female patients a choice of a female care worker.

These results show the lack of gender-awareness in mental health trusts, although previous studies revealed that men and women face different mental health problems, expressed in different ways and rooted in different gender experiences.

Often, women need a female care worker or a female-only care setting to feel safe enough to open up in therapy. Women need counselling and expert staff who understand sexual and physical abuse and trauma.

To address these shortcomings, Agenda recommends establishing a gender-focused approach across the treatment spectrum; implement a guideline on routine enquiry, provide gender-specific services, and include female patients in designing the service.

Aiming to raise awareness on women-specific needs in mental health, Agenda has launched the campaign “#Womeninmind” calling to have a gender-based strategy on mental health in each community and recognising the differences between women and men. This change of approach can have a substantial impact at the NHS in reducing the burden on mental health.

 


Sources:

Agenda: Alliance for Women & Girls at Risk. Mental health services ‘Not considering women’s needs’. September 2016. Available at: http://weareagenda.org/mental-health-services-not-considering-women-needs/

Sacks-Jones K. Keeping women in mind in mental health services. Mental health today. September 2016. Available at: https://www.mentalhealthtoday.co.uk/keeping-women-in-mind-in-mental-health-services.aspx