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Women in Crisis: How women and girls are being failed by the Mental Health Act 1983

A report published by Agenda in August 2018, sets out previously unpublished figures on self-inflicted deaths.

Agenda is an alliance of charities who campaign for women and girls facing abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction and homelessness to get the support and protection they need. Mind is a member of the alliance and this report is part of their campaign "Women in Mind". It calls for women's needs, and in particular their experience of abuse and violence, to be prioritised and taken seriously in policy, strategy and delivery.

This report sets out the increasing evidence that being detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 can be detrimental to women and girls' wellbeing and doesn't take into account their particular needs.

In 2016/2017 21,291 women and girls and 22,716 men and boys were detained. However, women and girls are more likely to be detained under section than men and boys. Agenda obtained figures from the CQC which showed that women's self-inflicted deaths overtook men's in 2015 and 2016.

The report highlights the difficulty that many people face in seeking treatment and support early on rather than being left until the point of crisis. The report argues that more needs to be done to tailor the care received by women and girls and to take more account of previous experiences of trauma. Many risk re-traumatisation and abuse, including through:

  • Lack of routine enquiry into patients experiences of violence and abuse
  • Inappropriate staffing and wards, including concerns about male staff delivering care including restraint and 1:1 observations and breaches of single-sex accommodation rules.
  • Widespread use of restraint
  • A lack of hospital beds
  • Children and other caring responsibilities being overlooked
  • Inappropriate people being nearest relative.

Agenda has made a number of recommendations including:

  • Specialist gender-specific, trauma-informed in-patient and community mental health services so that women and girls can access the support they need, when they need it.
  • Women and girls to be asked about their experiences of abuse and violence by trained professionals and to receive appropriate therapeutic follow up support.
  • Women and girls to be able to choose the gender of professionals involved in their care, including at critical points during the detention process.
  • Women and girls to be given the opportunity to review who has a say in their care on an ongoing basis, replacing the nearest relative with an appointed person model.
  • An end to breaches of single sex mental health wards and comprehensive steps taken to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and violence.
  • An end to the use of face-down restraint and other forms of physical restraint as a last resort.
  • Girls and women's roles and identities as mothers and care-givers to be considered during all parts of their treatment planning and care.
  • Data collection that demonstrates women and girls 'experiences of and outcomes under the Mental Health Act, including a disaggregated break down by gender and other protected characteristics.

The full report can be found here:


This report sets out the shocking reality for women and girls and the desperate need for change. We hope that the recommendations in this report will be adopted. Many of which could be addressed by way of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.

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