Mentally ill women's problems 'ignored'

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The Independent Online
WOMEN who suffer from mental illness are being 'fobbed off' with drugs and abusive medical therapies while the underlying cause of their problems is often ignored, according to a charity.

A report from MIND (National Association for Mental Health) also points to growing evidence of sexual harassment and abuse of women within the mental health service so that they no longer feel safe on wards or in day centres. The report calls for a major review of the services to make them 'more appropriate' to women. It will be presented today to Tim Yeo, the health minister, at a conference on promotion of mental health at the University of Keele.

Domestic violence, sexual abuse and problems such as miscarriage or infertility are often at the root of a woman patient's distress but GPs, some psychiatrists and counsellors often fail to make the connection. There may be a long time gap between the initial experience and subsequent experience of distress and no link is recognised, the report says.

It says that 'enormous sums are being spent on maintaining services that most women do not want: they continue to be fobbed off with prescriptions for psychotropic drugs; to be subjected to treatments like forced feeding and ECT which many women find abusive . . .'

The report says women are twice as likely to be diagnosed as suffering from depression as men, and two-thirds of prescriptions for psychotropic drugs are written for women. In addition, a recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that up to 50 per cent of women who see a psychiatrist had been sexually abused as children.

MIND highlights the plight of women with young families who need help but who may be at risk of losing their children if they admit their problems.

Stress on women; policy paper on women and mental health, MIND Publications, Kemp House, 1st floor, 152-160 City Road, London EC1V 2NP; price pounds 1.50.

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