Women, kids and Australia's mental health crisis

Women's health problems, depression and child abuse represented a major health crisis in Australia, a seminar focusing on women and mental health over the weekend was told.

The Director of the Centre for Mental Health Research, Professor Helen Christensen, said at the seminar that many mental health problems were far more common in women than men.

"Depression alone affects approximately 1.3 million Australian women ever year, compared with 750,000 men," Professor Christensen said.

"Post partum depression and mental illness in pregnancy are unique disorders which may affect the relationship between a mother and her child into the future. Women need specialist treatment and early screening.

"In addition, women are more likely to suffer eating disorders and panic disorder. Men are more likely to suffer from antisocial personality disorder, to experience alcohol abuse and to have premature death because of suicide.

"The causes of the higher rates of depression and mental illness are not known. However, we do know that risk factors prevalent in women include poverty, violence, self harm, sexual abuse, family responsibilities and the role of the carer.

"The Centre's research through the work of Dr Peter Butterworth has shown that one in three welfare recipients experienced a diagnosable mental disorder during the previous 12 months of the study period.

"Around 45 per cent of unpartnered women with children in receipt of income support payments were identified with a mental disorder, compared with 19 per cent for the general population. Structural and economic factors are potentially very important in pointing to areas of reform," she said.

The seminar heard Dr Louise Newman, Director of the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, describe child abuse as one of Australia's major public health problems.

"The mental health risk is two to four times higher for people who have suffered child abuse, yet there are ha

Contact: Amanda Morgan
Research Australia

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