10 Ways Women with Severe Mental Illness Suffer More

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Women with a psychiatric disease are more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, victimized or suicidal, according to a review from the Treatment Advocacy Center

We already know that people with psychiatric disorders are vulnerable to a host of ills. But for women, the consequences are even more severe.

Women with severe mental illness suffer more consequences than men with the same conditions and women without a psychiatric disease, according to a review of research from the Treatment Advocacy Center.

10 Ways Women with SMI Are Overrepresented, Underserved” shows that women with a psychiatric disease – typically untreated – are more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, victimized or suicidal, and to suffer from multiple medical conditions or substance abuse, the review found.

“We already know that people with psychiatric disorders are vulnerable to a host of ills,” said Treatment Advocacy Center Executive Director John Snook. “But for women, the consequences are even more severe.”

The statistics paint a stark picture, with severe mental illness disproportionately impacting women.

Among the key findings:

  • Women with a psychiatric disease are almost twice as likely to be victimized – to have been beaten, sexually assaulted or otherwise abused;
  • Women with severe mental illness are twice as prevalent as men in state prison populations;
  • Women with schizophrenia are less likely to be admitted to the hospital and, once admitted, they are hospitalized for fewer days than their male counterparts.

“The consequences suffered by women with severe mental illness are still more evidence that our mental health is broken and grossly insufficient, leaving patients and caregivers to fend for themselves,” Snook said.

Read the full review here.

The Treatment Advocacy Center urges lawmakers take the following actions to reduce negative outcomes and social costs associated with the consequences of untreated severe mental illness:

  • Fund and promote research and data collection to determine the unique role of gender in the consequences of severe mental illness. Women represent half of the population and are overrepresented in a host of consequences from severe mental illness. Determining the best way to address this problem requires rigorous data collection and analysis to identify gaps in the treatment system, access issues and underlying causes and barriers that contribute to women disproportionately experiencing negative outcomes.
  • Fix the broken mental health system by passing federal mental health reform legislation that helps people with severe mental illness. Several important proposals are currently moving through Congress, including the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646), the Mental Health Reform Act (S 1945) and the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act (S 2002). These proposals contain a broad range of solutions to address the shortage of psychiatric beds in community hospitals, decriminalize mental illness, fund evidence-based practices to help people with severe mental illness and expand the mental-health workforce.

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Jamie Mondics
Treatment Advocacy Center
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