2017: the year young women and girls put gender on the agenda

21 December 2017

The issue of women and girls' rights has built momentum throughout 2017, with this autumn seeing a catalyst in the form of sexual abuse claims, turning a mass of activists into an explosive female force with the #MeToo campaign.

The issues connected to gender can no longer be ignored… and we want action to address the crisis, specifically in young women and girls’ mental health.  

Gender on the agenda 2017

In 2017, gender issues have really found their way into the public consciousness – probably more than any other year in living memory.

January saw the biggest ever mobilisation for women around the world. Millions (including 100,000 in London) marched to assert positive values and for the protection of rights and freedoms threatened by political events.

October saw a string of high-profile sexual harassment claims against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein – prompting more and more women to come forward with their stories and the hashtag #MeToo going viral on social media. The UK Parliament, too, was hit by allegations of harassment stretching back decades.

The facts

  • Young women are more likely to experience common mental health problems, self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar.
  • Young women are three times more likely than young men to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Young women are more likely to experience anxiety related conditions than any other group.
  • Recent research with the mental health service users London found that ... Sixty-one percent of women reported having experienced sexual violence during adulthood, and 10% reported having experienced sexual violence in the past year.
  • Today, women are three times more likely than men to experience common mental health problems. In 1993, they were twice as likely.
  • Rates of self-harm among young women have tripled since 1993.

On International Day of the Girl (11 October), The Global Goals released a video featuring Beyonce’s hit Freedom. The campaign asks for things such as girl-led change, an end to all forms of violence against girls, to put all girls in school, to smash stereotypes and for girls to realise their own self-worth.

December saw TIME magazine name the women who spoke out against sexual abuse and harrassment; 'the Silence Breakers' as it's Person of the Year.

The mental health of young women and girls

Fifteen years ago there was a government strategy on women’s mental health, which included efforts to tackle violence against women and place women’s mental health within a wider cross-government drive for gender equality. In 2016/17, major policy announcements have dealt with women’s specific mental health needs - but almost exclusively in relation to perinatal care. Otherwise, gender is almost entirely ignored.

There are a number of underlying factors which cause young women and girls to be at greater risk of mental ill health. They include online culture, social media and pornography; a 31% rise in domestic violence between 2013 and 2015; and a string of austerity cuts – 86% of which fell on women.

How can we improve young women and girls' mental health?

Young women's mental health services is 'almost invisible' in Government policy in spite of growing mental health crisis, this has to change.

Our report, The mental health of young women and girls, has a series of recommendations of how we can improve young women and girls' mental health:​

  • We need increased attention to gender across mental health policy
  • The children and young people's mental health agenda must be gender sensitive and assessed for gender equality
  • There must be clearly indentified government structures for leadership on young women and girls' mental health
  • Action for young women and girls' mental health should take a whole-communities approach
  • Data on mental health outcomes should be systematically collected and dissaggregated on gender, age and other protected charities

We need your help

At the Mental Health Foundation, we are dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems. This includes focusing on specific groups that are at greater risk, including young women and girls. To continue to do this, we need your help. Please consider a donation today.

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