Equality in Mental Health Care

By Caroline Harroe, Harmless CEO

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women throughout history and across the world, but it also serves as a reminder that there is still progress to be made. Stigmatising women has been an issue for centuries, with mental health being particularly targeted. This can take many forms, including labels such as “hysterical,” which dates back to Ancient Greece. In modern times, these kinds of language have been replaced by terms like “personality disordered” which although more politically correct, still carries a stigma.

In today’s society, the campaign for change is ongoing but growing. International Women’s Day has recently highlighted how far we’ve come in fighting against gender-based stigma and discrimination when it comes to mental health care – but there are still areas of concern that need our attention. One of these is that young women are at risk as suicide rates among them continue to rise at an alarming rate compared with men. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in 2018 that the highest suicide rate in the UK was among females aged 20–24 years old[1].

In addition, emerging communities are often neglected when it comes to mental health care due to lack of awareness or resources available. BAME women in particular experience high levels of anxiety and depression due to cultural norms around gender roles that can leave them feeling isolated and suffering in silence[2]. Therefore greater attention should be paid to ensure their needs are met in order to promote healthier lives for all women regardless of background or age.

Overall, it is clear we still have some way to go when it comes to ensuring parity between men and women when it comes to mental health provision. International Women’s Day provides us with an opportunity each year to reflect on the progress made so far and campaign for change where necessary – so we should never neglect our young women who are disproportionately affected by this issue and require our help now more than ever before.

[1] ONS (2018). Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2018 Registrations – ONS Report [online]. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2018registrations [Accessed 2 April 2021]

[2] British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (n/d). Mental Health Care Access For Black & Minority Ethnic Communities – BACP Policy Statement [online]. Available from: https://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/default-source/policy-and-engagement-documents/bacp_mental_health_care_access_for_black___minority_ethnic_communities_-_march__2017_(6).pdf?sfvrsn=2 [Accessed 2 April 2021]