Women and borderline personality disorder (BPD) in the ACT (2016)

This research investigated the experiences of women with lived experiences of being diagnosed or labelled with BPD in the ACT and the experiences of service providers who helped and supported them.  The findings of this report highlight several areas of future work that we hope will assist in helping the ACT Government, health service providers and the range of other services who provide support to women who have been diagnosed or labelled with BPD in the ACT to improve their experiences and health outcomes.

WCHM began this project in 2014 by conducting research with women diagnosed or labelled with BPD about their experiences with mental health and other support services in the ACT region. BPD is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatised mental illness diagnoses. The gendered nature of the BPD diagnosis is widely recognised. Of people diagnosed with BPD, the vast majority are women, and a history of trauma is very common. Evidence shows that BPD is a costly disorder as it can lead to frequent hospitalisation and repeated use of mental health services and resources. The impacts of BPD are also felt significantly by families, friends, employers, and other people in the community. People with the diagnosis of BPD are among those with the highest levels of unmet need in Australian mental health services. This is due to a lack of services, misunderstandings of the disorder, and stigma.

Given the high prevalence and the social and economic costs, and the fact that with appropriate treatment people diagnosed with BPD have a high recovery rate, WCHM explored the experiences of ACT women relating to their BPD diagnosis; their ability to access information, services, support and treatment; and the service experience of health professionals and the mental health system. The results of the research will inform the future direction of WCHM’s advocacy and awareness raising work on this issue in order to ensure the provision of appropriate services and effective treatment for individuals.

On Thursday 8 October 2015, as part of Mental Health Week, WCHM held a forum where they shared high-level early findings from this research. At the forum, local artist, Ana Hansen shared a self-composed poem about her lived experience with BPD and then discussed her experiences. Thomas Roberts from ACT Health discussed an overview of available interventions in the public system and shared details about the new adult DBT program that is currently being piloted in the Adult Mental Health Day Service.

In June 2016, WCHM launched the final report entitled Not a label. More then a Diagnoses.