Women’s past experiences of violence and their increased vulnerability to abuse once they become ill must be routinely taken into account during any treatment they receive for a mental health issue. Practitioners and researchers have noted that women with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, coexisting substance use and/or mental or developmental disabilities illness as well as women in prison or from Aboriginal, immigrant and refugee populations are particularly in need of specialized services that are sensitive to issues of violence.
Research shows that homeless women, between the ages of 18 and 44, are ten times more likely to die than other women. To be effective and preventative of death, health care for homeless women under 45 should include programs to address addictions, HIV infection and mental health care. Effective interventions would include community outreach (with physicians working on multidisciplinary teams) and respite care programs for homeless people who are discharged from hospitals but who still need medical care. Increased affordable housing, including supportive housing for people with mental illnesses, is also necessary.