The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging women to put their health first and book an appointment with their GP.

The RACGP has partnered with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Week, running from 6 to 10 September, and is asking women and their GPs to use the week to check in and consider their mental health.

It comes after a newsGP survey of over 1400 GPs found mental health was the most common concern for female patients.

The survey asked respondents to nominate the most common reason women book a consultation with their GP at the moment. Mental health was by far the most common at 65 per cent, followed by questions about COVID-19 vaccination 21%, screenings and preventative care at 8%, and alcohol and other drugs at 4%.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price urged women to think of their own health and wellbeing.

Dr Price said:

“It’s very concerning, but not surprising, that GPs are seeing many women with mental health concerns – the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic rise in all people presenting with mental health issues,”

“We know women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Research has shown women have lost more jobs than men, they’re shouldering more of the increase in unpaid work, including caring for kids and vulnerable relatives, supporting homeschooling, and they’re less likely to receive government support. *

“As a GP myself, I’ve seen many women who are feeling very stressed and anxious, they might not have booked an appointment to discuss their mental health, but the topic comes up. A good GP can spot the signs and start a discussion with their patient if they have concerns.

“Unfortunately, we know women tend to put their loved ones’ health and wellbeing before their own. Women’s Health Week is a timely reminder for women to think of their own health, particularly mental health, during this challenging time.

“My message to women is simple: if you’ve been putting your health last, now’s the time to get back on track.

“It’s important to be aware of your own mental health and wellbeing, and practice self-care. And if you need more support, please don’t hesitate to turn to your GP, we are here to help, and there are telehealth and telephone consultations available for those who need them.

“The pandemic and restrictions have also impacted screening and early diagnosis for meany health conditions. Preventive health care and early diagnosis can be life saving so don’t neglect or delay your own health needs at this time.”

Held annually in September, Women’s Health Week is the biggest week in Australia focusing on good health for all women and girls in Australia.

Janet Michelmore, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Acting CEO and Patron, said:

“For the second year we are seeing COVID-19 have a significant impact on health and wellbeing. We want to urge women not to forget their own health while busy caring for others.  Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week is a timely reminder to women to look after themselves, both in body and mind. There is help and support out there, so please use it.”