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Marginalised women and girls face significant barriers in accessing mental health services: report

Published: Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A new report has found that many groups of women – including women in Direct Provision, women in abusive relationships, and low-income women – face significant barriers in accessing mental health services. The research, published by the National Women’s Council (NWC) and researched by Quality Matters, was funded by the HSE to support implementation of Sharing the Vision, Ireland’s National Mental Health Policy.

Based on an international evidence-review, combined with interviews and focus groups with mental health practitioners, service leads and policy managers in HSE and community organisations, the report makes a number of recommendations to enhance women’s access to and experience of community-based services. These include increasing mental health funding, providing training and staff supports to mainstream gender-sensitive, trauma-aware care, and embedding a tailored approach which takes account of cultural sensitivities.

Dr Emma Hurley, lead researcher and author of the report at Quality Matters, said:

“This report highlights the need to consider a diverse range of situations and needs to best serve women from various backgrounds and life stages. It offers a blueprint for improving policy, strategy, and practices across a comprehensive range of services using a gender sensitive lens. If implemented, the final recommendations have the potential to make a tangible difference to the lives of all women and girls in Ireland.”

The report, which will be launched at an event of the Women’s Mental Health Network, which NWC co-runs with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, makes over 30 key recommendations including calls to: increase funding for services; supports to enable people from diverse backgrounds to work in mental health services; move to a person-centred rather than medical model; collect disaggregated data; integrate gender-sensitivity into core mental health training; build culturally appropriate systems for ethnic minorities accessing services; and develop outreach teams to reach women in the sex trade and trafficked women.

NWC’s Women’s Health Coordinator Alana Ryan said:

“There is a clear opportunity here, ahead of Budget 2024, for government to make a long-term sustainable investment in mental health services which truly meet the needs of women and girls, including women who are falling through the cracks of the current system. Sláintecare’s target for mental health funding is 10% of the overall health budget, yet in Budget 2023 Ireland allocated just 5.1% - this must change.”

Blessing Dada, award-winning Black-Irish mental health writer, speaking at the launch event said:

“We’ve forgotten how to let folks, especially as women living in a patriarchal and racist world, move through experiences that are challenging to hold without projecting what is “normal” in seasons of immense trial, loss, change, and grief. One of the most important things we can do as healthcare providers, supporters, friends, and loved ones is to make sure our words and actions align. If we say “it’s okay not to be okay”— how are we creating space in our lives and communities for those who aren’t okay, or have no interest in pretending to be? How are we making space for things that won’t get better or improve quickly? In a world that thrives on capitalism, therefore producing individualism, we owe each other communal care.”

What: Launch of NWC/Quality Matters Research Gender-sensitive Mental Health: Developing Policy and Services Which Meet the Particular Needs of Women and Girls

When: Tuesday 20 June, registration at 10am

Where: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Green Street, Dublin 7.


For more information please contact NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator Sinéad Nolan on 085-8619087


Find here the full report: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/NWC_GenderSensitiveMHReport_V3_%281%29.pdf

Watch the summary video here




This research is being launched at the first post-pandemic in-person event of the Women’s Mental Health Network, which NWC co-runs with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. The Network aims to provide a platform for information-sharing on women’s mental health issues, advance collaboration and enable members to connect with people with a shared interest in women’s mental health. The research was undertaken by Quality Matters research consultancy.

The event will be chaired by Director of the National Women’s Council, Orla O’Connor with speakers including:

Dr Emma Hurley, Lead Researcher from Quality Matters, who carried out NWC’s research. 

Professor Siobhán MacHale, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair of the Specialist Women’s Mental Health Group who will present on the Group’s report ‘Embedding Women’s Mental Health in Sharing the Vision’. This group was established by the National Implementation and Monitoring Committee to support the implementation of Sharing the Vision, Ireland’s national mental health policy.

Jessica Curtis, Senior Project Manager, HSE Office of Mental Health Engagement and Recovery (MHER). Jessica will be speaking about MHER’s reports they published with Mental Health Reform, ‘The Experiences of Women Engaging with Mental Health Services’ and ‘The Mental Health Impact of Menopause and Perimenopause’.

Blessing Dada, advocate for mental health awareness. Blessing is an award-winning writer and SeeChange Ambassador.

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.

This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work. 

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie


The Women’s Mental Health Network (WMHN) is a network of people and organisations with a committed interest in women’s mental health issues, developed by the National Women’s Council (NWC) and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS).

The WMHN has two aims:

To provide a forum for information-sharing and networking

To advance interdisciplinary and multi-agency collaboration on women’s mental health issues.

For more information see here: https://www.nwci.ie/discover/what_we_do/join_the_womens_mental_health_network

Women’s Mental Health Network (stpatricks.ie)

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is Ireland’s largest independent, not-for-profit mental health service provider, providing inpatient and homecare through its three approved centres; St Patrick’s University Hospital, St Patrick’s Lucan and Willow Grove Adolescent Unit, as well as community and outpatient care through its nationwide Dean Clinic network. The organisation’s mental health services cater for addictions and dual diagnosis, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, psychosis, mental health difficulties in older adults as well as in young adults. 


SPMHS’ vision is to see a society where all citizens are empowered and given the opportunity to live mentally healthy lives. St Patrick’s Mental Health Services strives to provide the highest quality mental healthcare and works to promote positive mental health; to raise awareness about mental health; and to advocate for the rights of those experiencing mental health difficulties. St Patrick’s Mental Health Services also operates a confidential Support and Information Service, staffed by experienced mental health nurses from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. Call 01 249 3333 or email info@stpatsmail.com 


Website www.stpatricks.ie

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