World Mental Health Day: The Gender Perspective
As people the world over came together yesterday the 10th of October to mark the world Mental Health Day I agree with the article by Aihbhe Finne (www.europeanyoungfeminists.eu/2016/04/25/the-link-between-mental-health-and-inequality-gender-based-violence-and-gender-stereotypes/) which noted that Women and men experience the world in different ways and as a result they can suffer from very different mental health problems. There are some mental health problems that are more common among men. Men are more likely to commit suicide and that women are far more likely to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress than their male counter-parts which many chalk up to the heightened risk of sexual violence that they face.
Gender determines the differential power and control men and women have over the socioeconomic determinants of their mental health and lives, their social position, status and treatment in society and their susceptibility and exposure to specific mental health risks.
Gender differences occur particularly in the rates of common mental disorders – depression, anxiety and somatic complaints. These disorders, in which women predominate, affect approximately 1 in 3 people in the community and constitute a serious public health problem.
According to a write up by World Health Organization (WHO) on gender and women’s health these facts below are worthy of note;
* 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.
Depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sexual violence, domestic violence and escalating rates of substance use affect women to a greater extent than men across different countries and different settings. Pressures created by their multiple roles, gender discrimination and associated factors of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, overwork, domestic violence and sexual abuse, combine to account for women’s poor mental health. There is a positive relationship between the frequency and severity of such social factors and the frequency and severity of mental health problems in women. Severe life events that cause a sense of loss, inferiority, humiliation or entrapment can predict depression.
Up to 20% of those attending primary health care in developing countries suffer from anxiety and/or depressive disorders. In most centres, these patients are not recognized and therefore not treated. Communication between health workers and women patients is extremely authoritarian in many countries, making a woman’s disclosure of psychological and emotional distress difficult, and often stigmatized. When women dare to disclose their problems, many
health workers tend to have gender biases which lead them to either over-treat or under-treat women.
WHO’s Focus in Women’s Mental Health?
* Build evidence on the prevalence and causes of mental health problems in women as well as on the mediating and protective factors.
* Promote the formulation and implementation of health policies that address women’s needs and concerns from childhood to old age.
* Enhance the competence of primary health care providers to recognize and treat mental health consequences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and acute and chronic stress in women.
It is obvious that men also suffer from mental health, not just women but women receive more attention because they are disproportionately affected. There is no gender when it comes to expressing emotion and distress. However men suffer alone, needlessly due to harmful gender stereotypes ’ which lead them to believe that they should not show or share their feelings (http://www.sciencedirect.com/sceience/article/Pii/S18756708000146). As a result men are significantly less likely to seek help for depression even when it leads to serious suicidal ideations.
* Provide and equip more hospitals that will carter for people with mental health concerns
* Train health care providers to be gender responsive
* Encourage men and women to report all cases of gender based violence
* Provide safe home for survivors of Gender based violence by providing them with basic services (shelter, food Psychosocial and mental support)
* Capacity building and empowerment of men and women.
* Work on elimination of all forms of gender inequality in our society
Therefore, inequality and gender stereotypes are detrimental to the mental health of both men and women. So if we must make headway in this public health menace we must tackle all forms of gender inequality and inequity. Then we will have an egalitarian society with men and women of sound mind who would in turn contribute their quota to the sustainable development of our society.
Please refer to the links below for more on this write up. http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/ www.europeanyoungfeminists.eu/2016/04/25/the-link-between-mental-health-and-inequality-gender-based-violence-and-gender-stereotypes/
By: Mrs. Ndidi O. (APIN, Abuja)