Key messages

  • Gender-sensitive care is informed by knowledge and understanding of the differences, inequalities and varying needs of people of all gender identities.
  • People of all genders have a right to access effective care that is responsive to the differing needs of people of different genders, who may experience mental health differently.
  • Services and managers can and should promote gender sensitivity in the workplace.

There are guiding principles that aim to ensure that Victoria’s mental health services recognise and prioritise gender sensitivity and safety, and that gender-sensitive practice remains a core part of their day-to-day business.

These principles include:

  • People have a right to access services that are safe and responsive to their needs.
  • Effective care is responsive to people’s lived experiences and their particular needs, preferences, identities and circumstances.
  • Services should uphold people’s physical, sexual and emotional safety at all times.
  • Services should consider gender sensitivity and safety in their service design, workforce development, and local policies and procedures.
  • Gender-sensitive care recognises that women and men may experience mental health issues differently.
  • Staff education and training should promote gender sensitivity and safety as a critical component of workplace policies, systems and practices.

Informed by knowledge and understanding

Gender-sensitive care is informed by knowledge and understanding of the differences, inequalities and varying needs of women, men, transgender and intersex individuals, and the interrelationship of gender identities with people’s histories, social and economic situations, treatment needs, and experience of mental health and alcohol or other drug (AOD) issues.

Principles in action

Mental health services and managers can undertake a number of core activities to ensure that their facilities and services consider and respect the needs of people with different gender identities and preferences. These activities include:

  • reviewing workplace policies to provide a stronger, more consistent focus on gender sensitivity and safety across the service
  • undertaking staff training and professional development activities to ensure current knowledge of best practice gender-sensitive care is incorporated into routine practice
  • promoting internal discussions on accommodating individuals’ needs and preferences to help them feel safe and optimise their wellbeing
  • considering the impacts of specific cultures and cultural norms with regard to gender and sexual identities and gender-based power relationships
  • ensuring a gender-sensitive approach to bed allocation and the allocation of staff to individual patients
  • developing rigorous policies and procedures in relation to any sexual activity that occurs within the service
  • providing consumer information on the service’s commitment to accommodating gender-specific needs and preferences, and involving consumers in service evaluations
  • considering gender issues in ongoing planning around service design
  • appointing dedicated staff members to implement gender-sensitive practice, provide training, and provide regular reports on gender initiatives.