Pandemic has had major impact on women

Mental health and wellbeing badly affected
  • Deborah Condon

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the mental health and wellbeing of women, and the Government needs to take a gender sensitive approach in its response, it has been claimed.

Mental Health Reform and the National Women's Council have launched a joint statement calling for an adequate response from the Government.

They pointed out that during the pandemic, women have been disproportionately represented as frontline workers. They have also faced extra pressure to look after children and loved ones due to school and crèche closures.

This has been especially challenging for lone parents.

Meanwhile, women in abusive relationships have been in lockdown with their abusers, while those who were experiencing mental health problems before the pandemic, have had little or no access to mental health supports.

According to Orla O'Connor, director for the National Women's Council, women's voices and experiences "must be central to how the Government responds to the mental health impacts of COVID-19 now and during recovery".

"This must include women who are facing additional barriers, such as Traveller and Roma women, women living in Direct Provision, women in prisons and women experiencing homelessness.

"In order to meet their needs, the Government must measure, monitor and report on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide data on women. The new mental health policy, Sharing a Vision, is a unique opportunity to develop gender sensitive mental health services. We are calling on the Government to commence its implementation immediately," Ms O'Connor said.

Fiona Coyle, CEO of Mental Health Reform, insisted that Ireland's mental health policies have not properly recognised or addressed women's mental health needs "for decades".

"While we are encouraged to see that the newly published mental health policy, Sharing the Vision, is committed to implementing gender sensitive mental health services, without increased investment and quick implementation, these commitments will remain a paper exercise," she commented.

She said that if the Government is to urgently give effect to its commitments, it must immediately establish an implementation group to oversee the rollout of Sharing the Vision.

"Mental health services will require investment of at least €50 million for new developments in Budget 2021 if we are to see the recommendations of Sharing the Vision become reality," Ms Coyle added.

The organisations' joint statement makes a number of recommendations, including:
-Ensuring easy access to mental health services and supports
-Immediately commencing implementation of Sharing the Vision
-Developing a fully-costed implementation plan for Sharing the Vision in 2020.

The full statement can be read here.


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