Women’s mental health must be priority in COVID-19 recovery

For many women the pandemic has meant an increase in stress and anxiety and has adversely affected their mental health and wellbeing.   

Launching a joint statement with detailed recommendations today, the National Women’s Council (NWC) and Mental Health Reform have called on the Government to ensure women’s experiences and mental health needs are at the centre of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women are disproportionately represented as frontline workers and have been operating under tremendous stress throughout COVID19. With school and childcare closures women have faced extra pressures to look after children and loved ones, and has been particularly challenging for lone parents. Women in abusive relationships have been locked-down with their abusers and women in precarious jobs before the pandemic have lost jobs. Women who were experiencing mental health difficulties before the pandemic may now have further challenges in accessing mental health supports.

Orla O’Connor, Director for the National Women’s Council said,

“Women’s voices and experiences must be central to how the Government responds to the mental health impacts of COVID-19 now and during recovery. This must include women who are facing additional barriers, such as Traveller and Roma women, women living in direct provision, women in prisons and women experiencing homelessness.  In order to meet the needs of women, the Government must measure, monitor and report on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide data on women and women from intersectional groups.  The new mental health policy, Sharing a Vision, is a unique opportunity to develop gender sensitive mental health services. We are calling on the Government to commence its implementation immediately.”

CEO of Mental Health Reform, Fiona Coyle, said: “For decades Ireland’s mental health policies have not adequately recognised or addressed women’s mental health needs.  While we are encouraged to see that the newly published mental health policy Sharing the Vision is committed to implementing gender sensitive mental health services, without increased investment and quick implementation, these commitments will remain a paper exercise.

To urgently give effect to the Government’s commitments to gender sensitive mental health services, the Government must immediately establish the implementation group to oversee the roll out of Sharing the Vision. Mental health services will require investment of at least €50M for new developments in budget 2021 if we are to see the recommendations of Sharing the Vision become reality.”

As a matter of urgent priority, the National Women’s Council and Mental Health Reform recommend that Government:

  1. Ensures easy access to mental health services and supports.
  2. Improves measures to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of women.
  3. Immediately commences implementation of Sharing the Vision.
  4. Develops a fully costed implementation plan for Sharing the Vision in 2020.
  5. Measures, monitors and reports on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that includes data on women.
  6. Commits to the implementation of trauma informed mental health services
  7. Ensures women’s equal representation in all COVID-19 mental health response planning

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