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Women more at risk of mental health woes

WOMEN are up to nine times more likely to experience an eating disorder than a man, a top Dublin mental health expert said today.

And they are four times more likely to experience stress-related mental health disorders such as agoraphobia and panic disorder than a man, Prof Jim Lucey, Medical Director of St Patrick's University Hospital, said.



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Women are also likely to suffer for more than 10 years before being given a diagnosis, and especially where anxiety features are prominent, it is more likely their symptoms will be dismissed rather than diagnosed or treated, Prof Lucey said.

"The reasons for this are entirely environmental, societal and cultural," he said.

Marking 100 years of International Women's Day, health experts at St Patrick's said that mental health is intrinsically linked with social and personal justice.

Admission rates for 2010 at St Patrick's University Hospital show a higher proportion of women requiring inpatient services; with 61.90pc female admissions versus 38.10pc male, the hospital said.

However, in the same year 880 females rang the Hospitals Support and Information Line seeking mental health advice as opposed to 534 males.

"Stigmatic beliefs about people with mental illness are common, "Prof Lucey said.

"Many say people with an illness such as anxiety disorders are just worriers who should pull themselves together. The reality is very different."



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Paul Gilligan, CEO at St Patrick's, said: "It is often women that notice when a relative or child is experiencing a problem, change in behaviour or emotional difficulties.

"On International Women's Day I would urge women everywhere to talk about mental health and to encourage those who need help to seek this help.

"Mental health sufferers require us to be their advocates because they are often not in a position to advocate for themselves.

"We need to ensure that promised services are established. We need to create a society in which mental health and mental illness is discussed openly and in which those requiring help feel empowered to seek this help," Mr Gilligan added.

mlavery@herald.ie