WCHM contributed a submission about the proposed role for the new ACT Office for Mental Health, and the issues relating to women and mental health. Our submission highlighted the key mental health issues for ACT women and how they differ from men’s issues:
- Gender is one of the key factors that influence mental health and suicide – women make up the largest group of mental health care users in Australia;
- Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than men;
- WCHM’s younger women and chronic conditions consultation found that 70% of the 161 women respondents rated their mental health as fair to very poor (n=115), and the most prevalent chronic condition reported was chronic mental health conditions with 40%.
- While the male suicide rate is higher than the female rate, women attempt suicide more frequently than men but are less likely to complete suicide which leads to a public misconception that women attempt suicide in order to ‘seek attention’ – although the outcomes are different, the reason for both is the same, and evidence suggests that people who attempt suicide are likely to do so again in the future unless they receive help.
- It is now well accepted that violence and abuse (both in childhood and in adult life) is often the main factor in the development of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, and may lead to self-harm, suicide and attempted suicide – women are more likely to be victims of violence than men.
- Over two thirds of primary carers in the ACT are women, and carers for a person with a mental illness are at particular risk for developing mental health disorders themselves.
WCHM recommended that the Office for Mental Health make sure there is a focus on:
- collecting sex-disaggregated data, so it can be used to inform government funding allocations for suicide prevention and mental health responses;
- more gender sensitive policy and procedures in the design of service responses; and
- ensuring there are opportunities for women with lived experience to have a say in any reforms.
These issues will also be important to inform development by the Office of a revised ACT Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Services Plan, and an ACT Suicide Reduction Strategy.