A Discussion of The Need for Awareness and Acceptance
With nearly one in four people living with a mental health condition, it is no wonder an entire month has been dedicated to raising awareness about it. May has been identified as Mental Health Month by the National Alliance on Mental Health. May also happens to be Women’s Health Month, which makes it a great time to have an open discussion about women’s health and women’s mental health, and how the two work in tandem.
Research suggests that women are 40% more likely to develop depression, and twice as likely to develop PTSD than men (1). Unfortunately, women’s emotional disorders have been downplayed and attributed to hormonal issues or even classified under the umbrella diagnosis of “hysteria” (5).
“Mental health is a feminist issue because women’s experiences have often been, and continue to be, pathologized,” says Dr. Mindy J. Erchull, professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. She goes on to explain how women are more likely to be referred to as “crazy” in society and media outlets (5).
Rarely are socioeconomic issues such as discrimination, the wage gap, cultural domestic expectations, and personal safety issues addressed when considering the reasons why women may be anxious or depressed in greater numbers than their male counterparts (2).
“Increasingly, women are expected to function as carer, homemaker, and breadwinner – all while being perfectly shaped and impeccably dressed – while having less reward and control,” said Professor Daniel Freeman, and Oxford University Professor (5).
This lack of awareness has caused women to attempt to hide, disregard, or express feelings of shame or guilt in relation to their mental health (2). Left untreated, common disorders such as depression and anxiety can have harmful physical effects on the body by contributing to the development of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes (3). Other common types of mental health disorders affecting women, especially those in their 20’s and 30’s include Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Postpartum Depression, Addiction, and Schizophrenia (4).
Even more heartbreaking is the fact that women are three times as likely to commit suicide as men (5).
In more recent times, celebrities have been candid about their own journeys with mental health in order to lend their support for those who continue to struggle. Lady Gaga, Emma Stone, Amanda Seyfried, and Demi Lovato are just a few stars who have been candid about their struggles to overcome various mental health conditions including Depression, Anxiety, Addiction, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Eating Disorders (6).
An estimated 30 million people suffer from eating disorders in America, and of those, two-thirds are women (5).
With such shocking statistics, it is clear there is a significant correlation between women’s mental and physical health stemming from a variety of factors. So, what can be done to help support each other and combat the negative stereotypes that still surround metal health?
The most important thing we can do is talk about our thoughts and feelings. This may seem simple, but it can actually be the first step in identifying challenges and finding constructive ways to handle them. Conversations can take place with anyone we are comfortable with such as a family member, a friend, or even a counselor. Feeling the support and acceptance of those around us can help give us the strength we need to seek treatment and begin feeling like ourselves again.
Practicing proper self-care and being mindful of your successes, along with your opportunities, makes the obstacles of daily life more manageable. Being in-tune with how you think and feel about yourself and the world around you can lend to identifying when something doesn’t feel right. This can help you gain control over the things you can change, and will help you to accept the things you cannot.
Finally, it is important for us to look out for each other, as well. Checking in with family, friends, and co-workers can insure they are doing okay, and may offer you an outlet to discuss your thoughts and feelings, as well. Becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health issues can work twofold: You will be able to identify how to better interact with the person, and you may be able to encourage them to get assistance if it is needed.
For all phases of life, Crossroads Behavioral Health Services is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the people within our community. If you are feeling sad, lonely, anxious, overwhelmed, or just a bit “out of sorts,” speaking with a counselor or therapist can be beneficial in sorting out those thoughts and feelings and laying out a plan to improve your quality of life moving forward.
1. Young, Joel M. (M.D.) “Women and Mental Illness.” PsychologyToday.com. 22 April 2015. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201504/women-and-mental-illness
2. "Signs of Mental Illness in Women: Anxiety and Depression.” ClearviewTreatment.com. Retrieved from https://www.clearviewtreatment.com/blog/signs-mental-illness-women/
3. Horton, Lucie. “4 Ways Our Physical Health Could Be Impacted By Our Mental Health.” MQMentalHealth.org. 22 May 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/posts/4-ways-our-physical-health-could-be-impacted-by-our-mental-health
4. Genomind. “The 8 Most Common Mental Health Issues Affecting Young Women.” Genomind.com. 2 March 2018. Retrieved from https://genomind.com/8-common-mental-health-issues-affecting-young-women/
5. Fabian, Renee. “Why Mental Health Is A Feminist Issue.” TalkSpace.com. 30 August 2017. Retrieved from https://www.talkspace.com/blog/mental-health-feminist-issue/
6. Giannotta, Meghan. “Mental Health Advocates: Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, More Speak Out To Break Stigmas.” 10 October 2018. Amny.com. Retrieved from: https://www.amny.com/entertainment/celebrities/mental-health-advocates-demi-lovato-lena-dunham-more-speak-out-to-break-stigmas-1.12373543