Girls with Mental Illness Are Less Likely than Boys to Get Help

Research shows girls suffer a much higher rate of mental illness than boys, and girls receive treatment for their problems much less often than boys. If you are the parent or caregiver of aMental Illness young woman, this research deserves your attention.

Young Women and Mental Illness Rates

With few exceptions, women and girls suffer from mental illness at a much greater rate than boys. These numbers vary by condition and diagnosis. For example, men are more likely to suffer issues related to addiction than women. However, from the time a girl hits puberty until she reaches age 50, she is twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Despite having a much greater chance of suffering from mental illness, girls and young women are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to receiving treatment.

Treatment Rates for Girls and Boys

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports that boys suffering from significant emotional or behavioral difficulties are significantly more likely than girls to receive non-medication mental health services. The gap becomes wider still when those services are provided by the child’s school.

Another NCHS study shows that parents are much more likely to contact their child’s school to request assistance with mental health issues for their sons than for their daughters. The same study reported that boys are twice as likely as girls to receive treatment interventions for ADHD and other mental and behavioral difficulties.

What Parents Can Do

Although no clear explanation for these disturbing trends has emerged, psychologists speculate that the nature of girls’ mental illnesses lend themselves to going unnoticed. Girls and women tend toward the types of disorders that include internalizing and ruminating, or dwelling, on specific issues. Boys tend to act out more, making their issues more immediately noticeable.

A more disturbing theory is that women are simply expected to be stronger and to “suck it up” rather than seek help.

Parents and caregivers of girls and young women can help correct this disparity in several ways. Pay careful attention to your daughter’s words and mood, and never dismiss behavioral extremes as hormonal or normal teen moodiness. While that may be true in some cases, ignoring or dismissing it can lead to missing a critical diagnosis. Plus, this sends the wrong message to the young woman.

Encourage your daughter to share her problems and concerns with you, and listen for signs that may indicate a problem.

If you sense that your daughter may have an emotional or behavioral problem, seek out the advice of a counseling professional for guidance. Havenwood Academy specializes in residential treatment programs for girls and young women. We recognize the importance of getting teens the help they need to fully recover from their challenges and go on to lead healthy, happy lives. Please contact us today to discuss any concerns you may have about your child and mental illness.


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We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.