Women, like men, can experience diverse mental health challenges, the neglect of which can be detrimental both individually and to the society as a whole. Unfortunately, in the case of women, there are often certain unique challenges and vulnerabilities that necessitate special attention and support. In 2018, the CEO of the Mental Health Authority of Ghana, Dr. Akwasi Osei, said women are usually affected by mental ill-health during their reproductive years. He cited several instances where women had been reported to dump their babies after delivery due to post-partum depression. He said it was unfortunate that society continued to describe such visible signs of mental illness as wickedness on the part of women without supporting them to seek appropriate treatment. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are very common with women. It is essential to address these issues to improve the overall well-being of women for the betterment of all. Therefore the need to address mental health challenges in women cannot be over-emphasised.
Here are some common factors that cause mental health challenges in women that can be addressed:
- Hormonal Changes: Women go through significant hormonal changes throughout their lives, such as during puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. These hormonal fluctuations can impact mental health and may lead to conditions like postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Adequate support and understanding are essential during these phases.
- Sociocultural Factors: Women often face unique sociocultural pressures and expectations, including societal norms related to body image, career, and family roles. These pressures can contribute to stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. To deal with this, society needs to be more understanding towards women and women need to develop suitable ways of dealing with such pressures in order to protect their mental health.
- Trauma and Violence: Women are more likely to experience gender-based violence, including sexual assault and domestic abuse. These traumatic experiences can have severe and long-lasting effects on mental health. Addressing mental health is crucial for survivors of such trauma. There is the need to speak to a professional, instead of bottling it all in, which can be detrimental in the long run.
- Intersectionality, Stigma and Barriers to Care: The mental health of women can be influenced by factors such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic status and disability. Some women with disabilities for instance, suffer depression in silence over stigma surrounding relationships and marriage and pregnancy. Derogatory remarks passed, sometimes by persons in positions of assistance among others. This makes it even more challenging to seek help. Addressing this stigma and ensuring access to mental health services are essential steps in supporting women’s mental well-being.
- Maternal Mental Health: Ensuring the mental health of mothers is vital not only for their well-being but also for the well-being of their children. Maternal mental health can significantly impact child development and family dynamics and should be given the attention it deserves.
- Workplace Stress: Women often juggle multiple roles, including those of caregiver and breadwinner. Workplace stress and the lack of work-life balance can take a toll on mental health. Supporting women in the workplace and promoting mental health awareness is crucial.
Untreated mental health issues can lead to long-term physical health problems in women, such as cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders. Promoting mental health in women is essential for advancing gender equality. When women have access to mental health care and support, they are better equipped to pursue education, careers and leadership roles, contributing to a more equitable society.
In conclusion, addressing mental health challenges in women is not only a matter of individual well-being but also a societal imperative. By recognizing the unique challenges and vulnerabilities women face and providing appropriate support, we can help improve the mental health and overall quality of life for women and, by extension, their families and communities.
Suraya Alidu Malititi