On 8 March each year, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), marking the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
International Women’s Day, which in some countries is a public holiday, is also an opportunity to call for action on gender equality. Action is sorely needed, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that progress on women’s rights is vanishing and gender equality is growing ever more distant.
Gender equality could, he said, be 300 years away.
Women and mental health
In my field of psychotherapy, the day is also an opportunity to reflect on the issue of women’s mental health.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, about one in five women have a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety.
Poor mental health among women can, says the Foundation, be attributed in part to factors such as women being more likely than men to be carers, to live in poverty, and to experience physical and sexual abuse and sexual violence.
Women can also be affected by life events and hormonal changes, notes the Foundation, including perinatal depression, the menopause, and concerns over their body image (especially in the context of social media).
It’s good to talk
Many women are reluctant to share their experiences and to talk about their feelings, so instead struggle on in silence, with the impact of their mental struggle leading many to suffer from depression, eating disorders and self-harm.
Mental health problems affect both men and women, but the risk of suffering poor mental health is greater if you’re a woman.
Figures for England show that about one in six adults have a common mental health problem, with one in eight men affected (12%) and one in five women (20%)
Figures quoted by the Mental Health Foundation show that younger women – those aged between 16 and 24 – are almost three times as likely (26%) to experience a common mental health issue as males of the same age (9%), and women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety as men.
(The figures are taken from a 2014 survey; the charity Mind has noted the limitations of the survey in Mental health facts and statistics; more recent data is available from the World Health Organisation on its Mental disorders page.)
Help is at hand
According to the company Health Assured:
Women’s and men’s mental health have their own distinctions, and more research is starting to focus on these variabilities. We’re now beginning to understand what this means for mental health treatment.Women’s mental health: the statistics – Health Assured
For further information about how I can help you tackle issues around poor mental health – whether you’re a man or a woman – please visit my website.
And finally: the official colours of IWD are purple (representing justice, dignity and loyalty), green (hope), and white (purity).