Women VS Mental Health

In 2010 my cousin was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she was 18 and her life was changed forever. The doctors didn’t know why she suddenly developed this mental illness, but they gave several possible reasons, one was her being bullied at army training (traumatic experiences can trigger schizophrenia in people susceptible to it) another was her cannabis usage which doctors stated that smoking everyday increased her chances of developing schizophrenia (along with anyone especially teenagers) that coupled with her father also having the illness we were told it just a matter of time. My heart broke for her, but I was also extremely grateful that I knew her before the disorder took her, though we still talk almost every day I can’t pretend that she’s not a completely different person now, incapable of having that close bond we once had.
Such a serious mental illness so close to home got me thinking about all women and mental health including my own – I’ve lived with depression, self-harm and eating disorders for many years and although not as serious as my cousins diagnosis I can’t deny that my own mental health problems have had a detrimental impact on my life and though its hard even admitting it to myself as I have attached stigma to my own mental health problems it’s a necessity that I’m honest  with you reader and in turn we are all honest with ourselves.
Though we’d like to believe that in 2018 the stigma attached to mental illness isn’t what it used to be, it seems we’re still hesitant to ask for help we don’t want people to think we can’t deal with everything 24/7, admitting that life isn’t always as perfect as an Instagram picture can be extremely difficult. And with women being constantly bombarded with the notion of ‘you can have it all’ the modern-day pressures of women not only working full time but also being a mother, home-maker and keeping a social life, the expectation of being able to be all these things has seen a huge rise in mental health issues and women struggling to cope.
Statistics by the mental health foundation  found that in England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders along with this 10% of mothers in the UK have mental health problems at any given time compared to 6% of fathers. One in five (19.1%) women had CMD symptoms, compared with one in eight men (12.2%) and its affecting us at work as well - Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%).
It has been argued that the reason why women suffer more with mental illness is simply because they are more “emotional” than men which is laughable as it is preposterous, genetic gender differences and hormonal issues have also been named as a possibility. All leading to a woman’s emotional side as being the main factor but this is far from the truth – as women are more than likely to talk about their feelings and struggles rather than try and ignore them its far more likely that women are much more aware and well quipped to face mental health difficulties and therefore more likely to seek treatment. (One in four women will seek treatment for depression at some point, compared to only one in 10 men). Implicit bias is a sort of bias of which a person is not aware, i.e. a Doctor. Some research suggests that doctors have an implicit bias in favour of labelling women's symptoms as emotional, while taking men's symptoms more seriously for instance a woman who reports chronic pain to her doctor might be labelled as depressed. A man might be referred to a physical therapist or pain clinic.
So, what is to blame?
Though there are many factors that determine our state of mind at any given time past (or present) trauma has been associated with numerous mental illnesses, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma is common among women, with half of all women experiencing some form of trauma during their lives. One in four women have faced an attempted or completed sexual assault, and one in three reports being abused by a domestic partner. Thus the challenges of gender discrimination, gendered violence, and mistreatment of women directly work to undermine women's mental health.
This in turn has found some women to report receiving inadequate or insensitive care in response to trauma, and research suggests this can also play a role in the development of mental illness. For example, some women report being blamed for their own rape or abuse. Others find that street harassment, violence on television, and similar cultural issues aggravate their symptoms after a traumatic event.
Sadly, discrimination of any kind can increase women's exposure to stress, stress is a well-known predictor of mental illness with many of us living in a constant stressful environment. Research has consistently shown that women do more than their fair share of housework and childcare, even when they work full-time. And none of us are strangers to the knowledge of women being continually paid less than men for the same work – constantly having to work even harder to achieve the same credit which is still unattainable in many instances. On top off this many women worry about workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Each of these common challenges that you and I and many other women have likely faced more than once are highly stressful and can conspire to tear down women's coping skills as well as self-esteem.
Now let us also tear down the common misconception as stated earlier – hormonal behaviour. It's a common belief that oestrogen is a “female” hormone while testosterone is the “male” hormone but both men and women have each hormone in their bloodstreams, but in different quantities based on age, health, and an assortment of other factors. Some research suggests that hormonal differences between men and women may play a role in mental illness but as hormone levels change rapidly throughout our lives (both men and women) it cannot be a significant factor in mental conditions. One hormone that is known to affect both male and female moods however, is serotonin, basically our built in happy pill. Serotonin deficiency has been implicated in a host of mental health issues, most notably depression and anxiety.

Written By Casey Milano

The ConveHERsation is the digital platform for Women Of Power UK

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