Universal Mental Health Rights for Women
Stigma associated with mental illness still exists in India, however it has decreased significantly. With its multiple states, languages, cultural challenges, and socio-demographic variances, India has undoubtedly display disparities in mental health statistics. But a commonality that social and gender specific factors has unveiled that the gender differences that prevails in occurrence of mental health problems. Physiological and psychological characteristics, gender norms, cultural and environmental factors make women more vulnerable to be affected by mental health difficulties. On the top of it, stigma, financial dependence, lack of education, limited understanding of psychological challenges does add to stress levels.
In recognition of these challenges, the concept of "Universal Mental Health Rights for Women" has gained prominence in recent years. This article delves into the importance of these rights and explores ways to ensure the mental well-being of women in India and worldwide.
Women’s Mental Health
Women and men are affected differently by mental illnesses. There are also some mental health challenges that are found to be more common in women. Some women, for example, have depressive symptoms before or after pregnancy (perinatal depression), around the time of their period (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and throughout menopause (perimenopause-related melancholy).Having said that some of risk factors that develop depression, anxiety, high stress levels, are very specific to women. These factors include:
- Expectations ofbeing a caregiver can lead to certain level of stress, anxiousness, and social isolation;
- Societal norms regarding their appearance, body weight, and being the ideal parent or spouse
- More likelihood to experience physical, emotional and sexual abuses;
- Experiencing gender-based discrimination and violence;
- Inadequate social support;
- Doubly burdened by the requirement of nuclear family; job responsibility and household chores.
Women's Mental Health Rights
The concept of women's mental health and their rights is a deeply intertwined and complex issue that deserves our attention and understanding.
- Gender-Based Discrimination and Mental Health: Women often experience inequalities in education, employment, and social status, which can lead to chronic stress and contribute to mental health problems. Ensuring women's rights to equal opportunities and protection from gender-based discrimination is essential to promoting their mental well-being.
- Reproductive Rights and Mental Health: Women's reproductive rights are a critical component of their overall well-being, including their mental health. Access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, family planning, and safe abortion services are essential rights that can impact women's mental and emotional states. Denying these rights can lead to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe procedures, and psychological distress.It has to be also understood that reproductive mental health is a unique aspect of women's mental well-being. Women may experience conditions such as postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and menopausal mood disorders. Recognizing these conditions and providing accessible mental health support is crucial to safeguarding women's rights to mental well-being during various life stages
- Violence against Women and Mental Health: Gender-based violence, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, is a pervasive issue worldwide. Women who experience such violence often suffer from a range of mental health issues; including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recognizing women's rights to live free from violence is crucial for their mental well-being.
- Economic Empowerment and Mental Health: Economic empowerment plays a significant role in women's mental health. Many women face economic disparities, earning less than men for similar work or lacking access to job opportunities. These inequalities can lead to financial stress, which, in turn, affects mental health. Ensuring women's rights to equal pay and economic opportunities can alleviate these stressors.
- Mental Health Stigma: The stigma surrounding mental health issues affects women disproportionately. Societal norms often discourage women from seeking help or discussing their mental health struggles openly. Advocating for women's rights to access mental health services without judgment is essential for breaking down these barriers.
- Intersectionality and Inclusivity: It's vital to recognize that women's mental health experiences are influenced by intersecting factors, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Women of different backgrounds may face unique challenges and barriers to mental health care. Therefore, policies and advocacy efforts must be inclusive and consider these intersectional factors.
Empowerment and Advocacy
Universal mental health rights for women should encourage empowerment at all levels. Empowered women are more likely to advocate for their mental health needs, assert themselves in the workplace, and make informed decisions about their well-being. Workplace stress and discrimination can take a toll on women's mental health. Governments and organizations should prioritize creating supportive work environments that accommodate the unique needs of female employees, such as flexible schedules and parental leave. Women's voices and experiences should be central in shaping mental health policies and programs.
On other hand, counselling and psycho-therapeutic intervention can be empowering as it facilitates solution to women's difficulties that cover everything from general mental health to issues that are unique to women. TalktoAngel’s Online Counselling for women addresses all issues that women might be facing in the twenty-first century. TalktoAngel’s online counsellor, addresses women centric concerns by using feministic therapy to pinpoint feelings and concentrate on self-empowerment to liberate and motivate you as a strong woman.
Self-care tips for women
- Ensure 7-9 hours of good sleep.
- Eat bright coloured fruits and vegetables.
- Find time each day to de-stress and relax (avoid technology)
- Stretch, Run or do moderate physical exercise regularly
- Get routine physical and mental check-ups
- Mathrubhumi. (2022, March 16). Meet 97-year-old Dr Sarada Menon who says women are more vulnerable to mental illness. English Archives. https://englisharchives.mathrubhumi.com/features/specials/meet-97-year-old-dr-sarada-menon-who-says-women-are-more-vulnerable-to-mental-illness-1.4969812
- Women and mental health. (2023, September 27). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/women-and-mental-health
- Women and mental health. (n.d.). Mental Health Foundation. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/women-and-mental-health
- UHBlog. (2023, March 24). Self-Care for Women: 5 simple steps. University Hospitals. https://www.uhhospitals.org/blog/articles/2023/03/self-care-for-women-5-simple-steps