Building on or building in? The contribution of policy and the law to women’s mental health

Karen Newbigging and Jenifer Paul

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

Building on or building in? The contribution of policy and the law to women’s mental health

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Women's mental health and the provision of appropriate services have been the focus of attention for many years. In the 1990s, concerns about the safety of women in mental health services (Gorman 1992) and a growing body of literature that described the needs of women, illustrating how mental health services failed women, led to a call for changes in provision (Williams et al. 1993; Parry-Crooke et al. 2000). Despite this, the influence on statutory mental health service provision appeared to be minimal, although the government acknowledged that mental health services were not always sensitive to the needs of women (Davies and Waterhouse 2005). Women's mental health therefore became a focus for policy development following the publication of the National Service Framework for Mental Health (DH 1999). The publication of Into the Mainstream: Strategic Development of Mental Health Care for Women (Department of Health 2002) set out to tackle the key issue for mental health services of how to shape and deliver a response, building on an understanding of the underlying causes of women's distress, the contribution of these underlying causes to the expression of distress, and enabling women to tackle these issues through providing gender-specific and gender-sensitive services.

More recently there have been legislative developments that include provisions to tackle unlawful discrimination on the basis of gender (Equality Act 2006) requiring public bodies, including Primary Care (PCTs), Mental Health Trusts, and Local Authorities, to assess the gender impact of major policies and service developments. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the contribution of these legislative and policy developments; to demonstrate how they can support improvements in women's mental health and mental health service provision, and to review the progress made in this arena, concluding with implications for further development. We draw on our experience of commissioning and providing mental health services and job-sharing a national post with responsibility for leading the implementation and development of the women's mental health strategy across England.

Chapter.  6181 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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