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When it comes to serving the mental health needs of women, ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

NEXUS is working to help address the mental health needs of women

We’re expanding the mental health community beyond traditional mental health stakeholders to include those with lived experience, case managers, law enforcement officers, prison administrators, parents, community center volunteers, and school tutors, to name a few. This diverse group is driving a new discussion on how to better address the unmet mental health needs of women, youth, and those within the justice system.

What sets us apart from other respected and effective mental health initiatives is our groundbreaking collaborations, real-world insights, and new mental health research. We’re also examining mental health best practices in individual communities to evaluate how best to use them for the greatest impact on the unmet needs of our 3 key groups.

The NEXUS team wants to raise the bar in women’s mental health, focusing on critical junctures to move them from hopeless to hopeful.


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This October, we focus on topics connected to Domestic Violence Awareness Month
This October, we focus on topics connected to Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Women in need

Girls’ mental health issues can go unheard

Girls’ mental health issues can present very differently from those of boys and are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Girls tend to “internalize” symptoms, while boys will “externalize.” Girls’ symptoms may go unnoticed because they are not explicitly disruptive. Applying the same screening criteria to children of both sexes may lead to a misdiagnosis.

NEXUS has identified an adequate diagnosis as a key unmet need for girls with mental health issues. In addition to addressing this unmet need, NEXUS stakeholders want to bring attention to the potential consequences, such as substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Women may not seek mental healthcare due to financial constraints

Currently, there are disparities in health literacy, awareness, attitudes, and beliefs around women’s mental health issues among lower socioeconomic groups. The NEXUS community of women’s mental health supporters, such as social workers, women’s health advocacy groups, and caregivers, is arming itself with the mental health insights and background to move these women from hopeless to hopeful.

Without the support of commercial insurance, and with uncertainty as to whether a provider will accept Medicaid, low-income women may be hesitant to seek out care from mental health professionals and will often put other living expenses in front of their own mental health needs.


A 2017 Kaiser survey of women’s health* indicated that 49% of uninsured women either did not seek out or delayed care due to the costs.1


of women reported going without or delaying care because they could not take time off of work compared to higher-income women (19%).1

*Findings from the 2017 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey, a nationally representative survey of women ages 18 to 64 on their coverage, use, and access to healthcare services.1

NEXUS stakeholders are tirelessly working to identify new ways to help connect low⁠-⁠income women to the mental health resources specific to their economic needs.

Women who serve as primary caregivers may lack support and ignore their own needs

Women who serve as primary caregivers will often dismiss their own needs, especially in the case of mental health, to focus on a loved one.

The loved one may be thought of as more important than the primary caregiver’s own health and the stress of caregiving may be a significant burden, often triggering or exacerbating mental health issues among primary caregivers.

NEXUS traditional and nontraditional mental health stakeholders, such as case managers and nurses, are looking at a “mutual care” approach, which could address the needs of both caregiver and patient.


Approximately 60% of caregivers are women.2

For women who serve as primary caregivers, the consequences of neglecting their mental health needs could be fatal.


Caregivers have 63% higher mortality than noncaregivers.3✼

*Data from the Caregiver Health Effects Study (CHES), an ancillary study of the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a large population-based study of the elderly, examining the relationship between caregiving and mortality (400 caregivers, 400 noncaregiver controls).3

Identifying trauma in women

Trauma in women may go unnoticed because symptoms are not shared, or the memory of a traumatic event has not been fully acknowledged or has been repressed. Some women may not understand what constitutes a trauma, which may prevent early intervention.

NEXUS is examining new ways to identify trauma in women and how to best support them.

globally 16% to 50% women will experience a violent episode


16% to 50%

of women will experience a violent episode over the course of their lives.4

1 out of 5 women experienced rape or attempted rape

1 out of 5

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1 out of 5 women have experienced rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime.4


Identifying effective solutions for unmet mental health needs of women

From an early age, women’s mental health needs may go unidentified and undiagnosed:

  • Girls may struggle to receive accurate diagnoses because their mental health issues present differently from those of boys
  • Women will often be deprived of mental health treatment and support due to socioeconomic status
  • Women who serve as primary caregivers may put a loved one’s needs before their own mental health, which could perpetuate their own mental health issues
  • Women who have experienced trauma may not realize it, making identifying the trauma difficult

The specific unmet needs of women with mental health issues can be common among the other NEXUS areas of focus: youth and individuals within the justice system.

NEXUS research and real-world insights have incited passionate debates, uncovering the guiding principles for how we can address the mental health challenges facing these 3 groups at critical junctures in their lives.

How NEXUS guiding principles apply to women:

  • two hands handshake

    Warm Handoffs

    To help women with mental health issues to transition back to their healthiest lives, NEXUS is working to connect a broad range of stakeholders to ensure women have the resources, care, and support they need at critical transitions of care.

  • peer support

    Peer Support

    Support groups, public health community centers, and faith-based centers are just a few peer-support resources for women in recovery or in the midst of life changes.

  • gender signs

    Gender & Age Differences

    Using a school-based approach may be effective in educating teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators on spotting different ways mental health issues manifest themselves in boys and girls.

  • clipboard checklist


    Screening for mental health issues in girls and boys using more comprehensive criteria to account for different expressions of mental health issues between sexes may result in more accurate diagnoses.

  • alarm clock

    Early Intervention

    A woman’s mental health issues due to abuse can be inescapable and hard to overcome and may affect her own children. Early intervention could stop this cycle of abuse and mental health issues.


1. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Women’s coverage, access, and affordability: key findings from the 2017 Kaiser Women’s Health Survey. Issue Brief. 2018. http://files.kff.org/attachment/Issue-Brief-Womens-Coverage-Access-and-Affordability-Key-Findings-from-the-2017-Kaiser-Womens-Health-Survey. Accessed: February 20, 2020. 2. National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the AARP Public Policy Institute. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-report-revised.pdf. Accessed: February 12, 2020. 3. Schultz R, Beach SR. Caregiving as a risk factor for mortality: the Caregiver Health Effects Study. JAMA. 1999;282(23):2215-2219. 4. World Health Organization. Gender and women’s mental health. 2019. https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/. Accessed: February 12, 2020. 5. Child Mind Institute. 2016 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report. 2016. https://childmind.org/report/2016-childrens-mental-health-report/. Accessed: February 13, 2020. 6. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Jailing people with mental illness. 2019. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/public-policy/jailing-people-with-mental-illness. Accessed: February 12, 2020.