MENTAL HEALTH: Women’s Health Survey Results ‘A Wake Up Call’
The recent California Women's Health Survey "raised many more questions than it answered," and should serve as "a wake-up call for advocates, providers and policy makers," an editorial in today's San Jose Mercury News states. The editorial asserts, "Mental health care for women contains enough contradictions to make anyone's head spin," and asks, "What services do women need? ... What are the biggest obstacles to obtaining care?" The Mercury News points out that more than one-fifth of the survey respondents "wanted mental health services, but only half obtained them." Women have a higher rate of mental illness, the editorial notes, but society is more likely to treat men, as they are more likely to become violent. Most women surveyed wanted "help with personal or family problems from a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor." The Mercury News points out that African- American and Native American women have the most trouble obtaining care.
What To Do?
The Mercury News suggests that many women might "obtain help if they could seek it in off-hours or find services in their own language more easily." Calling the survey "a catalyst," Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, has agreed to sponsor a women's mental health conference next month. The editorial points to mental health care advocates such as Nancy Pena, deputy director of mental health for Santa Clara County, who "wants to see greater recognition by government agencies of the need for family treatment, rather than focusing on an individual and then sending him back to the same environment that made him ill in the first place." Sharon Roth of the Santa Clara County chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill called on the Legislature to "provide parity in mental health care, so that severe biologically based mental illnesses are treated equally with physical illnesses." The editorial concludes: "Only society at large can eliminate the shame that has always been associated with mental illness. But government policy-makers, public health staffers, providers and advocates can take many steps to see that services are available and affordable when people overcome the stigma and ask for help. The new governor and Legislature, taking over in January, can help lead the way" (11/24).