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The Stigma of Women and Mental Health

The Stigma of Women and Mental Health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about a quarter of the entire female population of the United States has experienced a mental health disorder. This is compared to men, in which only 15.8% of their population experience a mental health condition. This is especially worrisome, as women make up half of our total population. This means that in the United States, if you have four female friends, at least one of them will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

Why is this number so high? What can be done to improve the mental health of women in our country? It is well-known how stigmatized mental health is in general, but how does this affect the women in our population?

Women and Men Develop Mental Health Disorders Differently

It’s no surprise that mental health is different between men and women. Our brains are different and deal with different types of chemicals in our development as we mature. So more often than not, symptoms of mental health disorders will express themselves in different ways depending on gender. 

For example, depression and anxiety are more commonly found among women, while schizophrenia and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are more prevalent in men. It doesn’t mean that either can’t ever develop these disorders; t just means there are factors in our society that tend to make certain conditions more prevalent in specific genders.

Genders also express symptoms in specific ways. As a result, some mental health disorders are poorly understood, as they were often mistaken for other kinds of disorders or undertreated because of someone’s gender. Historically, women tend to be seen as “hysterical” and overdramatic, so many women were told they were simply imagining their symptoms. 

In today’s society, there is still a disconnect between how women and men are treated when it comes to mental health. Science is currently doing its best to make up for lost time, but mental health disorders among women will need to be studied carefully to catch up to where it should be.

Societal Pressures on Women and Mental Health

As mentioned above, women were historically treated lesser than men for most of our country’s history. It isn’t just the USA, women are typically treated as the “weaker” sex, and this has had wide-spanning consequences on the mental health of women everywhere. Women are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the high rates of sexual assault women face. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC),  81% of women in America have experienced some form so sexual harassment or assault. It’s no wonder why anxiety and depression are so high among women.

Women are also pressured from a young age to be people’s pleasure, to be nice and polite. This pressures women, especially young women, to hide their problems lest they be seen as though they are simply looking for attention. Women are also expected to fill the role of caretaker, which takes an enormous toll on someone’s mental health and expects them to put their feelings on hold. 

Stigma on mental health, of course, is problematic in this country, regardless of gender. It’s much easier to pretend that a problem doesn’t exist than it is to face and fix it. Again, mental health in women is expected to be put aside to take care of what is “important” at the time, so women were encouraged not to speak about their mental health lest it “rock the boat.”

How to Support the Women in Your Life

There are a number of ways to support the women in your life, including the following.

Remind Them of Their Value

Perhaps the best way to support the mental health of women in your life is simply to remind them that their feelings matter. By letting them know that you value their feelings and thoughts, you show that they have someone to confide in should they ever need it. It doesn’t matter how big or small the problem is; being able to vent to someone who cares can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Encourage Them to Get Treatment

If someone you love is struggling with their mental health, you should encourage them to seek professional help. Support them as they make that all-important first call for help, and give them your support through treatment

Consider a Clinical Trial

If you are a woman or know other women with a mental health disorder, consider applying for a clinical study or trial. Science is very behind when it comes to finding new treatments to specifically help women, so it is always appreciated to have help with their research. They will also accept healthy women as well, so if it is possible, consider contributing to science and furthering the understanding of women and their mental health.

Provide Support Groups

Thankfully, more and more women are speaking out about their mental health as time goes on. Support groups just for women have appeared all across the country and can be accessed by anyone. With the invention of the internet, it’s now easier than ever for women to connect with fellow women and discuss their mental health with and support each other. If you are aware of any support groups in your area or online, be sure to share them with the people you love. Even if someone may seem like they are fine, they may appreciate having the help should they ever need it.

The days are certainly getting better as more people take a stand and demand their mental health be taken seriously. Stigma is destroyed by knowledge, so anyone can help by educating others on the importance of caring for your mental health. 

Women experience the world much differently than men do and struggle with unique mental health disorders. They face specific troubles in life that the men in their life may not be able to understand. You don’t have to be alone. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we stay on top of the newest medical breakthroughs to provide the best treatment possible for our patients. Science is constantly learning new things, especially how to care for the mental health of half the world’s population. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, call (949) 647-4090 today. Everyone deserves to have compassionate and high-quality care, no matter what gender you are. 

LMFT, Program Director at Acera Health | Edited & Medically Reviewed

Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.

Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.


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