Women are suffering in silence says Royal College of Psychiatrists on International Women’s Day

Press release
08 March 2023

On International Women’s Day, the Royal College of Psychiatrists is voicing concerns that women are suffering in silence, which could lead to half of the nation having poorer mental health.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) survey of 100,000 people found that 42% of women wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to a family member, 36% a healthcare professional, and 30% a friend, about their mental health condition.

The College is calling on healthcare professionals, and the public, not to make assumptions that women or girls feel confident talking about their mental health and are therefore managing fine.

Around one in five women experience a common mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression, compared to one in eight men, according to the most recent NHS Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. Despite this, there are still thousands of women and girls who struggle alone, and they could miss out on vital support as a result of bias.

The DHSC survey also found that young women (aged 16-19 years) would feel most comfortable talking to their friends (58%) about their mental health condition, compared with a healthcare professional (41%). Conversely older women (aged 70-79 years) were almost equally comfortable speaking to friends (69%) and a healthcare professional (71%). Both groups were least likely to turn to a family member (33% and 68% respectively).

Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“International Women’s Day provides us with a good opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women. But we must also take a moment to recognise that women and girls often feel the need to be strong for their loved ones, and as a result may struggle to cope themselves.

“We know that one in five women suffer from mental health problems when having a baby, but many of them remain silent. In my own clinic, I see women who have had to take on new parenting and caring responsibilities without adequate support because of this.

“We can all play a vital role in breaking down the barriers that prevent women from accessing vital support. The first step must be for us to become more aware of the signs and symptoms of conditions like anxiety and depression. People can’t seek help if they aren’t aware there is a problem to begin with. This will lead to faster diagnoses and earlier intervention, which is crucial in preventing more severe symptoms from developing.

“It is equally important that women feel listened to and taken seriously when they do ask for help, by having the trust and respect of their family, friends and mental healthcare professionals.

“A person can only be empowered to make the right health choices if they are provided with accurate and evidence-based information. Mental healthcare professionals need to be trained in the specific needs of female patients. This should include understanding the barriers women and girls may face in receiving an accurate diagnosis due to unconscious bias and perceptions about specific health conditions.”  


As part of International Women's Day, we are holding a special webinar, and have published a blog post, video interview and a podcast. All information is available on our International Women's Day page.

For further information, please contact: