More than 4,000 women with mental health problems are set to benefit from the Tampon Tax Fund.
What is the Tampon Tax Fund?
The Tampon Tax Fund allocates funds generated from the VAT on sanitary products to projects to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls. Mind and Agenda were awarded £1.8m from the Tampon Tax Fund administered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), which will benefit women experiencing multiple disadvantage – those with mental health problems, experiencing homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, offending, and family breakdown or a combination of these.
Peer support initiatives for women
Women across England and Wales will get vital mental health support as part of a major new programme launched by mental health charity Agenda (the alliance for women and girls at risk) and Mind.
The £1.8 million programme, called Women Side by Side, will increase the availability of high quality, community-based peer support for women through around 70 projects delivered by specialist organisations across the country.
The projects will particularly benefit women experiencing multiple disadvantage – for example those experiencing mental health problems, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, family breakdown, offending, or a combination of these.
Around one in five (19%) of women experience a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. More than half of women with a mental health problem has experienced some form of violence and/or abuse.
Five new hubs (four in England and one in Wales), which will act as learning centres supporting every project, are already up and running. The hubs, run by women’s organisations, are using their specialist expertise and links to community organisations to make sure all services understand and respond to women’s specific needs, including their experiences of trauma and abuse.
Research* has shown that peer support from people who have similar experiences improves people’s wellbeing and helps them manage their mental health, enabling them to choose what kind of support works best for them. Peer support is also a good investment and can help decrease other healthcare costs by, for example, reducing hospital admissions by people with mental health problems.
Examples of projects include:
• Clean Break – a women’s theatre organisation, which works in prisons and other communities across the UK.
• The Survivors’ Forum – a safe online community providing peer support for women affected by domestic abuse, from the Women's Aid Federation of England.
• The Ethiopian Women Empowerment Group (EWEG) - a provider of peer support to address mental health problems in women affected by the Grenfell disaster. The project will predominantly work with Black, Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER) women from Ethiopian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Eritrean, Somalian, and Asian communities who are isolated as a result of language and other barriers, and who struggle to access mainstream services.
Andrea Woodside, 49, from London says:
”My mental health journey has been like that of so many other people - challenging, life-changing, and often an incredibly lonely experience. I continue to live with the impact of sexual abuse in my childhood as sadly many women do and I am also in the process of recovering from the not uncommon experience of intimate partner abuse. The road to recovery from traumatic life events and its impact on your mental health and wellbeing can often feel isolating, I regularly meet other women experiencing the same loneliness of their own path to recovery.
“My experience of developing peer support programmes in workplaces has taught me that this kind of support can help to normalise the experience of trauma as well as mental health problems, and at the same time, empower people to share tools for coping and recovering.
“The challenges myself and other women face can be quite different to those faced by men, and peer support is a critical part of the recovery process. Having the space to share our fears, anxieties, and wisdom with others who have been there goes a long way to promoting our wellness on all levels.”
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, says:
“We’re really excited to be co-leading the Women Side by Side programme throughout England and Wales. This pioneering peer support initiative will offer a safe, non-judgemental and collaborative space for women from all walks of life who need support for their mental health – whatever the reason. Peer support can be a major platform for people’s recovery. Sharing your experiences with someone you can identify with can be really beneficial, especially for those of us with mental health problems.
“We know that the journey to good mental health can be difficult, especially for women who have faced traumatic life events. Peer support is one option that can be offered to make sure people stay well in their communities. It increases people’s sense of choice and hope, and improves people’s wellbeing, which is why we believe community-based peer support services should be offered alongside statutory mental health services across England and Wales.”
Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of Agenda, says:
“Mental health problems among women are on the rise, yet too many are unable to get the support they need, when they need it. The new projects will help to increase the availability of mental health peer support that recognises and responds to women’s specific needs and experiences.
“Poor mental health among women is often closely linked to difficult life experiences like abuse and poverty, which is why this programme’s focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and marginalised women is vital. By combining the expertise of Mind, Agenda, women’s organisations, and women with lived experience of mental health problems, we believe this important work will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of women.”
Elefriends is Mind's online peer support community, available 24/7 for everyone over the age of 18.
Find out more about Agenda’s Women in Mind campaign which is calling for female mental health to be made a priority.
Mind’s online resource ‘Making sense of peer support’ includes advice on where to find local peer support groups.
*Mind worked alongside St George’s, University of London; The McPin Foundation; and London School of Economics to undertake a major new piece of research into peer support in community settings. The project heard from over 750 people across nine areas of England and found that access to peer support improves people’s wellbeing and helps them manage their mental health problem.