There is a toxic stigma surrounding women and mental health issues. This stigma often prevents women from speaking about their struggles or reaching out for help.
This can cause some women to turn to substances to relieve their pain, which can lead to dangerous health consequences and the development of addiction.
Women are no strangers when it comes to mental illness. But that doesn’t make the relationship between the two any easier. There are difficulties when it comes to diagnosing mental health disorders and social stigmas attached to doing so. Even more so to those who seek treatment. And, sadly, many women know that something is wrong but feel like they have too many responsibilities that getting help just doesn’t seem feasible.
In this article, we’re exploring the relationship between women and mental health.
Women and Mental Health: What the Statistics Say
Looking at the numbers, you will see that more than one in every five women has experienced a mental health condition within the last year. And many of the mental health conditions that plague women, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, affect women at a much higher rate – and in a different way – than they affect men.
In addition, 46.6 million adults in the U.S. in 2017 were treated for mental illness. The percentage of those who were women was nearly 50% higher than the percentage of men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
But, that’s not all. Here are a few more statistics from the NIMH:
- More women receive mental health services than men, 49.7% and 36.8% respectively.
- The prevalence of serious mental illness is greater in females than males, 6.5% and 3.9% respectively.
- Women who are exposed to violence are 3 – 4 more times likely to suffer from depression. This includes those who are exposed to sexual abuse as children, abusive partners, and or other types of sexual or violent abuse, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Things that Affect a Woman’s Mental Health Treatment
Women are intricate beings. They have a lot riding on their shoulders every day and a desire to show they can handle it. So any intrusion of a mental health concern makes things a bit, well, tough. There are certain things in their lives that cause them to just push it aside as best as possible or find alternate ways of dealing rather than seeking treatment. These include:
- Many women, especially those with a lower socioeconomic status, tend to not have access to the necessary healthcare.
- Women tend to be the main caretaker for children, as well as elderly parents. This makes it more difficult to schedule treatment.
- Women are usually the ones on the receiving end of things like abuse or violence, sexual or otherwise.
- Personal safety concerns also halt women from seeking help, especially in situations where there is another adult maintaining control.
Though, while these are just a few of the things that impact mental health treatment for women, it is important to point out that women do tend to have at least one friend that they can confide in and voice concerns. While it is not the professional help that they need, speaking up about mental health is a very good first step.
Women and Mental Health: The Stigma
There is a toxic stigma surrounding women and mental health. Self-image is huge for women, which means being seen as “weak” or “flawed” due to a mental illness is not acceptable. Unfortunately, it is for this reason alone that many choose not to address their concerns about their mental health.
Covering it up or self-medicating on their own is viewed as the better option. Although, we all know that is just not the case. Learning to cope with mental illness means being strong enough to accept that it is there, address it, and get the help you need.
More and more, celebrities and others in the limelight are coming forward with mental health issues in an attempt to reduce the stigma.
Most Common Mental Health Issues Faced By Women
Women can be diagnosed with any mental illness, but there are a couple that seems to impact women at a much higher rate. These include:
- Eating Disorders
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorders
- Substance Abuse
Many times women use substances such as drugs or alcohol to deal with their other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, etc. These drugs or alcohol are used as a means of self-medicating. Unfortunately, what happens quite often, is that after a while, more is needed to help curb the symptoms. This cycle will continue on until addiction is formed.
Some professionals believe that substance abuse that may have started with a glass of wine in the evenings to unwind may lead to mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.
Researchers have long questioned whether mental illness or addiction came first. And they are learning that either may appear first and the other results from it.
Concerned About Your Mental Health?
If you believe that you may be suffering from a mental health condition or need to talk to someone, then it is important to seek help immediately. Talking to your family doctor is a great place to learn of the resources available to you.
The National Alliance for Mental Health has a website that is full of resources you may find helpful. The more you learn and the more you stay connected and find support, the greater chance you will have of finding relief and joy again in your life.
It is always worth noting that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255. Of course, if you feel that you are at risk of causing harm to yourself or others, contact 911 immediately.
As women – and human beings – knowledge makes us stronger. The more we learn about mental illness and talk openly about it, the easier it will be for us to come forward when we feel like we need extra help. It also makes it easier to spot the signs in those that we love.
Educate yourself on mental health and remove the stigma, ladies. Together we can break any and all barriers.