The suicide rate among young women is rising, but women find that they are not always taken seriously when they ask for help
“Our research shows that even when they do speak up, young women’s feelings and symptoms are frequently dismissed and ignored – often disregarded as over-emotional, hormonal or attention-seeking. These damaging preconceptions are leaving young women unheard and unsupported and lives are at risk like never before.” Simon Gunning, chief executive, Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm)
One in five young women who have sought help for their mental health say they were told they were being “dramatic”, according to a new survey.
The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), asked more than 2,000 women about their experiences when asking for help with a mental health crisis such as panic attacks or manic depression. It found that many women did not feel they were taken seriously.
A third said they were asked if they were “overthinking things,” while 20% were asked if they were on their period and 27% were told their issues could be hormonal. The survey found that 22% of the women feared being seen as “attention-seeking”.
Among women under 25, the suicide rate is increasing, according to ONS statistics, and now stands at one every two days.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that suicide rates among women under the age of 25 in the UK are increasing and stand at one every two days. An ONS release says: “Suicide rates among young females have been steadily increasing over several years. While year-on-year changes might not be statistically significant, comparison between 2015 and 2021 shows a statistically significant increase for those aged 10 to 24 and 25 to 44 years.”
Simon Gunning, Calm’s chief executive, said the suicide statistics were “shocking” and that they “serve as a stark reminder that we need to do more to protect young people and make suicide prevention a national priority.”
He added: “Our research shows that even when they do speak up, young women’s feelings and symptoms are frequently dismissed and ignored – often disregarded as over-emotional, hormonal or attention-seeking. These damaging preconceptions are leaving young women unheard and unsupported and lives are at risk like never before.
“We must take immediate action and strive to overcome the stigma that hinders women from receiving the recognition they deserve during times of crisis. By providing them with the necessary support, we can ensure that no woman has to face her struggles alone.”
The charity said that some of the leading factors of mental health crises in women aged 18-34 were body image (a factor for nearly half of those surveyed), loneliness, relationship issues, money worries and comparing themselves to others on social media. More than a third, 39%, cited loneliness while 32% had been affected by relationship issues and 33% by money worries. One in four, 26%, said comparing themselves to others on social media had played a part in their crisis.
Professor Louis Appleby, a government adviser on suicide prevention, said: “Suicide in young women is a national priority. Although the rate is not high compared to other groups, there has been a marked rise over the last decade or so. The causes are likely to be complex – including mental ill-health, abuse, online experience – and prevention too has to be wide-ranging. It’s a reminder that suicide is constantly changing and we must be vigilant.”
To highlight the rising rates of female suicide in the UK, Calm has partnered with the England footballer Fran Kirby, who stars in a short film to highlight how women can feel invisible when they seek help. Kirby part of the European Championship-winning Lionesses team and Calm ambassador, said that “tragic numbers” showing a rise in suicide by young women could be prevented
“Like any team, we all have our part to play in making sure young women feel seen when they reach out,” she said.
Repeated surveys have shown that rates of mental ill health among young people are rising, and it is particularly concerning to see an increase in suicide rates among young women, who are traditionally regarded as being lower-risk for suicide than men. People with mental health problems are often told to ask for help, so it is immensely worrying to see that some of the young women who do ask for help are having their concerns dismissed or trivialised. People seeking help for mental health problems should never be told they are being “dramatic,” and we would like to see appropriate mental health support provided by everyone who needs it.