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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Dahaba Ali Hussen

Young women seeking mental health help called ‘dramatic’, UK survey finds

Young woman sitting with head in arms
Many young women did not feel they were taken seriously when they tried to seek help, the survey found. Photograph: Radharc Images/Alamy

A fifth of young women who have sought help for their mental health say they were told they were being “dramatic”, research shows.

The survey also found that 27% of those who had spoken up about a mental health crisis over the past five years were told their issues could be hormonal.

Recent ONS statistics showed suicide rates among women under the age of 25 in the UK are increasing and stand at one every two days. Mental health charities and campaigners say this is in part because stereotypes about women mean that when they seek help, their feelings and symptoms are often not seen or are dismissed.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), asked more than 2,000 women about their experiences when speaking up about a mental health crisis such as panic attacks or manic depression.

It found that many women did not feel they were taken seriously when they attempted to seek help.

A third said they were asked if they were “overthinking things” and 20% were asked if they were on their period. The survey found that 22% of the women feared being seen as “attention-seeking”.

Simon Gunning, Calm’s chief executive, said of the suicide statistics for young women: “These are shocking and serve as a stark reminder that we need to do more to protect young people and make suicide prevention a national priority.

“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.”

He added: “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 cited some of the leading factors of mental health crises in women aged 18-34 as body image, loneliness, relationship issues, money worries and comparing themselves to others on social media.

Prof 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 teamed up with the England footballer Fran Kirby who stars in a short film that aims to highlight how women can feel invisible when they seek help.

Kirby said she wanted to help shine a light on the issue of suicide. “Like any team, we all have our part to play in making sure young women feel seen when they reach out,” she said.

• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email or In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

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