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HOW LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR WOMEN

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Health minister Rosie Winterton today launched the implementation ...
Health minister Rosie Winterton today launched the implementation

guidance for the Women's Mental Health Strategy, on a visit to Mental

Health services in Sheffield meeting staff from eating disorders,

employment, and community teams at Sheffield Care Trust.

Social isolation and poverty are much more common in women, as is the

experience of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual

violence. The complex interplay of all these factors can have a major

impact on women's mental health and have wider repercussions as a

result of the multiple roles that women adopt in our diverse

communities.

This new Implementation Guidance on mainstreaming gender and women's

mental health will help those planning and delivering mental health

services to understand better what is meant by being sensitive to the

needs of women and ensure that women feel better served by the mental

health care system in terms of their individual experience.

Ms Winterton said:

'The government is taking a wide-ranging approach to tackle the

inequalities that persist in our society. Inequalities that, in most

cases, still affect more women than men. The needs of women are

central to the government's programme of reform and investment in

public services and to our commitment to addressing discrimination

and inequality. Modernising mental health services is one of our core

national priorities.

'Women want to be listened to, to have their experiences validated,

and most of all to be kept safe while they recover from mental ill

health. Women want importance placed on the underlying causes and

context of their distress in addition to their symptoms, support in

their mothering and caring role and their potential for recovery

recognised.

'Understanding the specific mental health needs of women - both as

service users and in the workforce - requires cultural change. This

can only be achieved through the increased involvement of the public,

staff, service users and carers and through a partnership approach to

service delivery. We hope that this guidance will help make the

changes needed to improve quality and choice in mental health

services.'

The National Institute for Mental Health (England), in conjunction

with its development centres will support the implementation of this

guidance on Mainstreaming Gender and Women's Mental Health by

establishing a National Gender and Women's Mental Health Programme.

The public consultation Women's Mental Health: Into the Mainstream

ran from October to December 2002, providing an opportunity for the

Department of Health to listen to the views of all stakeholders

across health and social care. All the comments from the consultation

exercise have been considered in this new implementation guidance.

Notes

1. The development of a women's strategy forms part of the

government's commitment to address inequalities in the delivery of

mental health services. To provide equity of service to all, gender

differences in women and men need to be equally recognised and

addressed across planning, commissioning, service organisation and

delivery, research and evaluation. Women's Mental Health: Into the

Mainstream focused on gender differences that are relevant to women

but many of the principles outlined are relevant to all age groups

and to men too.

2. The guidance can be downloaded here.

3. The guidance recommends that:

- PCTs and mental health trusts should appoint a senior person

responsible for women's mental health

- better joined-up working between mental health and primary care

trusts, social services, voluntary sector, housing services,

criminal justice services and service users to ensure a better

service for women's mental health

- work will be done with statutory and voluntary sector to fill any

gaps i n womens' mental health services.

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