The social care needs of women with mental illness

Adil Akram and Andrew Kent

in Oxford Textbook of Women and Mental Health

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780199214365
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199640454 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks

The social care needs of women with mental illness

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Social care needs make an important contribution to the quality of life of men and women with mental health problems (Lehman et al. 1982; 1983; UK700 Group 1999).

Such needs include housing, food, money, social interaction, relationships, childcare, education, and care of self and the home.

Many of these needs are amenable to influence and intervention from health and social care services, and the interventions targeting improved quality of life for people living with severe mental illness should take account of these needs (UK700 Group 1999).

There is an argument that health and social services are designed to be ‘gender blind‘ or ‘gender neutral’ and therefore women's needs are already effectively considered, without having to make a distinction by gender.

This leads to the assumption that men and women's social care needs are the same.

As Curtis (2005), risking a truism, points out women are not the same as men, and supposedly ‘gender blind’; services are essentially male orientated and focused, with women in the default position of the ‘other’.

Women with severe mental illness are ‘othered’ to an even greater extent (Montgomery 2005); their needs not acknowledged or incorporated into the mainstream, despite being a socially active group.

Authors such as Kohen (2001), argue for ‘gender sensitive understanding in psychiatric services’.

We agree and argue that social needs should also be understood from a woman's perspective as women’s health may be more strongly associated with social environment than men's (Cooper et al. 1999).

The different life experiences of women inform and influence their health experiences.

Ramsay and her colleagues (2001) suggest that this influences the differing ways mental health problems can present in men and women and has implications for their management.

An improved understanding of the specific social care needs of women could lead to the development of practical solutions that can be implemented by case managers and have the potential to have a real impact on quality of life.

This is in keeping with the current ‘recovery’-based philosophy that increasingly pervades mental healthcare delivery, aiming to restore the individual to as full a life as possible, by normalizing rehabilitative social roles.

Recent United Kingdom (UK) government policy documents have highlighted mental health and social care inequalities and built on a raft of related policies over the past two decades (Ramsay et al. 2001).

Chapter.  6297 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

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