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High rates of mental illness in women: study

Most women and girls aged over 12 have experienced some deterioration in their mental health at some point, new research reveals.

Three out of five females have been affected by poor mental health, according to a report by Platform 51. Of these, a quarter had to take at least a week off work because of their condition.

The group, formerly known as YWCA, said the survey exposes the need for improved treatment for women and girls experiencing low-level psychological illness.

Platform 51 Chief Executive, Penny Newman, said many doctors are too keen to just prescribe drugs to such women. Of all the females surveyed, 63% have experienced poor mental health and 32% of the women had been given antidepressants by their doctor.

Ms Newman said: "Millions of girls and women are facing mental health problems and they are telling us that they are not getting the support they need.

"Women are often the linchpins of their families and their communities, and if three in five of them aren't meeting their potential, they lose out, their family and friends lose out and so does the wider society."

Calling for changes to be made to the way poor mental health is approached, she said: "Policy makers need to act now to address this crisis in women's mental health and provide a range of effective interventions.

"We must put an end to the dependency culture that has built up around prescription drugs, giving women more choice and control over the support they receive.

"Too often, women's voices are not heard on the issues that affect them. This research provides them with a platform to speak to policy makers and call for the changes that will improve the lives of women everywhere."

Platform 51 questioned 2,000 women and girls in England and Wales and also used data from focus groups to produce its report, Women Like Me: Supporting wellbeing in girls and women.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Platform 51 report