Half of Welsh women report mental health problems

Depressed girl (picture posed by model)
Image caption Within Wales 22% of women experiencing low level mental health problems have self-harmed

A women's charity has called for a review of the treatment women with poor mental health in Wales receive.

Research by Platform 51 revealed 53% of Welsh women are suffering from "low level" mental health problems.

The charity urged policy makers to act now to stop the "dependency culture" surrounding anti-depressants.

In response, the assembly government said it recognised "the importance of preventing mental health problems".

Platform 51, formerly Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), said more than half the women and girls in Wales believe problems like low self-esteem, self-confidence and stress negatively affect their lives.

The report "Women like me; supporting wellbeing in girls and women" was based on evidence found in a poll of more than 2,000 women and girls in England and Wales, surveys of more than 450 service users and focus groups involving more than 170 women.

Within Wales 35% of women experiencing problems have taken at least a week off work, 22% have self-harmed and 33% have lost friends as a result of their issues.

The research also found two thirds did not leave their homes for long periods, 20% regularly drank enough to get drunk and one in six have built up debt.

Platform 51's director of policy, research and campaigns Rebecca Gill said it was time those responsible for dictating health policy found effective methods of intervention.

She said: "We were staggered by the results and shocked at how many women are experiencing these problems and feelings of loneliness and isolation when dealing with them.

"We want the Welsh Assembly Government to review prescription drugs as we are concerned some of our service users have been on anti-depressants for more than four years while waiting a very long time for counselling.

'Crisis point'

"We are not saying drugs don't have a role to play but they should be part of a solution, not the cure-all solution.

"We want more focus on these low-level mental health problems that so many women and girls suffer from, but which stop them from fulfilling their potential.

"We should be addressing these problems as they arise otherwise they accumulate and women reach a crisis point, which is far more expensive for the NHS to deal with.

Ms Gill said women were often not identifying the issues as mental health problems and said more needed to be done to encourage self-referral.

Platform 51's chief executive Penny Newman echoed this view: "Women are often the lynch pins of their families and their communities, and if over half of Welsh women aren't meeting their potential, they lose out, their family and friends lose out and so does the wider society.

An assembly government spokesman said: "While we cannot comment on a report that we haven't had an opportunity to study in detail, as outlined in Our Healthy Future, the public health strategic framework for Wales, we recognise the importance of preventing mental health problems and promoting positive mental health."

He added that the bilingual CALL (Community Advice and Listening Line) has become a round the clock support service for people experiencing mental health problems and their friends or relatives.

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