MAKING MENTAL HEALTH A PRIORITY FOR WOMEN!
Although overall, men and women experience mental health challenges at similar rates, some mental disorders occur more frequently in women than men. For example, women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from major depression, which is associated with problems such as lost productivity, medical illness, greater risk of poor self-care or poor adherence to medical treatments, increased risk of depression and suicide.
According to the journal Action steps for improving women’s health “rates of anxiety disorders are two to three times higher in women than men; this includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects women more than twice as often as men. Women represent 90 percent of all cases of eating disorders, which carry the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Eating disorders frequently are associated with other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social phobia”
There are a number of factors affecting women’s mental health.Women are more likely to be the main carer for their children, care for older or disabled relatives, are more likely experience anxiety and depression, poverty, physical and sexual abuse. Major life transitions such as pregnancy, motherhood and menopause can create physical and emotional stresses for women. Negative life experiences such as infertility and perinatal loss, poverty, discrimination, violence, unemployment and isolation also impact on women’s mental health and wellbeing. Unequal economic and social conditions also contribute to women’s higher risk of depression (Beyond blue ,2021).
Women’s mental health: The Facts (WHO, 2021)
- Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.
- Leading mental health problems of the older adults are depression, organic brain syndromes and dementias. A majority are women.
- An estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children.
- Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%.
- At least one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
Therefore, it is not only necessary but crucial for women to be able to identify and appreciate that there is an absolute need to make mental health a priority. Good mental health does NOT necessarily mean being happy all the time. Good mental health can experience happiness and sadness, anger, and excitement, all in healthy ways. When you have skills and tools to improve mental health, it means your mind can perform all its functions appropriately.
You can do things such as:
- Learn new information
- Identify a support system that you can be vulnerable, safe, and comfortable to share anything
- Adapt quickly to change
- Allow yourself to experience a range of emotions in a healthy way
- Work and contribute productively at home, professionally and in the community
Benefits of improved mental health include but not limited to
- Reduction in anxiety
- Improved moods
- Clearer thinking
- A greater sense of calm or inner peace
- Increased self-esteem
- Reduced risk of depression
- Improvements in relationships
So, how do we make our mental health a priority? By practicing self-care. Self-care is the process of nurturing yourself. But in a fast-paced and often chaotic society, many women tend to put their own needs on the back burner. As women we constantly put everyone else first, allowing our own needs to suffer. We may even become resentful because our personal needs have been neglected. Self-care is imperative. Some tips that will help you actively practice self-care…..
- Recognize that self–care is not selfish
- Be your own best friend
- Spend time alone
- Create supportive surroundings
- Believe that saying “No” is okay
- Create personal boundaries and be protective about your personal space and time
- Normalize attending therapy even when all is “well”
Self-care is about regulating your attention and focus from within, with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. Be present for yourself, allow your self to learn from your mistakes, do not allow negative labels to define you, stand in your truth, authenticity and of course uniqueness. You are a phenomenal woman as Maya Angelo so eloquently stated.