Mental health column: We need to respect the traumas and mental health issues of each other
While I raise awareness about men’s mental health due to my own personal experiences, I wanted to focus this month on women’s mental health, recognising that women’s mental health is as big of an issue, writes mental health champion Vicky Waring.
When I think about the networks I have made and what I see on social media, many are about men’s mental health and little about women’s mental health. Why?
I’m guessing this is due to suicide being the biggest killer of men under 45 and absolutely needs to be a key feature in awareness raising. Nevertheless, we need to break down the inequalities women face too, to stop the damaging impact on their mental health.
The issue of women’s mental health has been in the media these last few months. For example, there was Meghan Markle with everybody having an opinion on the disclosure of her own mental health and suicide ideation.
It made me question why so many people were so quick to raise negative comments.
I ask the difficult question. Had this have been the other way around; would the same response have been received?
This column isn’t about men against women, it’s about raising awareness for all.
Women tend to generally talk more about their feelings than men and often have a stronger social network of friends and family. Does that mean they are less likely to experience mental health concerns? No.
Women are in fact more at risk of internalising their feelings leading to mental health illness for example eating disorders. There has been a suggestion that lockdown has made young women’s mental health worse than ever and they too also struggle to get the support needed from mental health services.
While only 25 per cent of people who take their own life are women, did you know the number of women who self-harm is much higher than men?
In England, around one in five women have a common mental health illness such as anxiety, depression and women are twice as likely to develop PTSD in their lifetime then men.
There are many factors that affect women’s mental health, and it is often associated with abuse and trauma.
I did a Google search about women’s mental health. I found very little compared to men’s mental health.
This does not distract from the fact that women will experience mental health concerns that men won’t - for example those associated with pregnancy and giving birth, and those experiencing menopause.
I would argue each gender has a lack of understanding to the other’s experiences and while we ask for empathy, truly understanding how they feel isn’t really an option. We need to respect each other’s traumas and concerns.
The way we can all look after our mental health isn’t gender specific. Man or Woman, we all need to follow the same approach: talking more, reaching out and reaching in, good sleep, eating well, exercise and, most of all, reducing the stigma and breaking down the barriers.
If you are struggling with your mental wellbeing or know someone who is, these charities can help. Samaritans: 116 123, MIND 0300 1233393, Anxiety UK 03444775774, CALM 0800 585858, Rethink Mental Illness 0300 5000927 and YoungMinds 0800 802 5544