Research Output
A way through the woods: opening pathways to mental health care for women with multiple needs
This paper reports on a pilot project that helps women offenders and other women with multiple needs to access mental health care. The paper aims to increase understanding of the mental health needs of these women and the barriers they face in accessing and sustaining engagement with appropriate care.

Key principles and early findings are presented from the partnership project based in Anawim Women's Centre, in which a mental health nurse (MHN) is seconded to the centre one day a week. These are presented in light of research relating to the mental health needs of vulnerable women.

Early findings suggest mental health needs are largely trauma‐based and co‐occurring substance misuse problems are common. The MHN negotiated a pathway into secondary care with community mental health team managers but concerns continue about the ability of primary care services to meet the complex needs of these women. Principles for working with this group include: provision in a women‐only space; a focus on engagement; flexibility; holistic support and empowering women and voluntary sector staff.

Research limitations/implications
Findings are based on eight months of one pilot project in which 22 women were seen.

Practical implications
Practical implications are outlined for commissioners and service managers of mental health care services for vulnerable women.

Research and experience suggest that women with multiple problems can struggle to engage with traditionally structured services and fail to access the holistic support they need. This paper increases understanding of this problem and suggests how these women might be better supported.

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  • Date:

    23 May 2011

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  • Funders:

    Historic Funder (pre-Worktribe)


Anderson, S. (2011). A way through the woods: opening pathways to mental health care for women with multiple needs. Advances in dual diagnosis, 4(2), 63-74.



women; offenders; multiple needs; complex needs; trauma; mental health

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