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LET’S TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH AND WOMEN

A state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being is termed mental health. It is important to look after your mental health at every stage of your life whether it’s adolescence, childhood, or adulthood. Reports say that 19% of the adults, 46% of the teenagers, and 13% of children every year are affected by poor mental health, very few out of this data receive proper care, because of the social stigma attached to it. 

Many factors contribute to the risk of mental illness like childhood abuse, sexual assaults, witnessing violence, having feelings of loneliness, alcohol or drug addictions. The two most common mental health conditions diagnosed more often are- anxiety disorder and mood disorder. More than 18% of youth suffer from anxiety disorder plus panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Mood disorder affects 10% of adults.

People’s mental health can change with time, dealing with situations like family issues, illness may wear out the person and may get more severe if proper care is not taken, and getting therapy can improve this. 

Mental health impacts different people in different ways. Gender is a critical determinant of mental health issues. These disorders are predominant in women. Unipolar depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of disability and is twice as common in women. 

Social and economic factors put women at greater risk of mental health issues, there is a steady increase in the number of women experiencing mental health issues.

What are the factors that cause this increase in numbers of women being affected- 

1. Violence or abuse- Women in India are the victim of domestic violence, 70% of women from the age of 16 to 49 had been a victim of rape, beating, or forced sex. The reproductive role of women, i.e expected role of bearing a child, infertility, failure to produce a male child had become a result of female suicide or poor mental health. 

2. Discrimination based on sexuality – Gender differentiation has also impacted mental health. Women are required to be the primary caregiver to the family despite their problems. Women have fewer opportunities, and face a patriarchal family system, thus it is more likely for them to suffer as they face more stressors and are ill-equipped to cope with them.

3. Infertility – Mental disturbance frequently occurs during late pregnancy or infertility. 

4. Menopause- Mood and behavioral changes have been seen because of menopause. Symptoms like anxiety, migraine, sadness, lack of concentration. 

Some common disorders are- 

1. Depression- It is a feeling of overwhelming sorrow or melancholy. It may last for months or days, affecting your appetite, loss of enthusiasm, worthlessness, inability to sleep, excessive sleep. Women who suffer from depression either turn religious and emotional to deal with it or turn into alcohol addicts. 

2. Panic disorder- It occurs as a result of other illnesses like depression. Anxiety disorder affects women more than men. It is often followed by an intense feeling of stress, worry, urgency. PTSD is the cause of the traumatic event and women suffer more as they are victims of violence, abuses more than men. 

3.  Eating Disorder- Sexual abuse in women has made them less confident, have low self-esteem, negative body image thus making them conscious eaters. This leads to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. 

4. Bipolar Affective Disorder- It’s a mood disorder, in which a person experiences elation and depression. 

5. Paranoia- It is the persistent feeling that people are out to get you. 

6. Schizophrenia- It is characterized by disruption to thinking and emotion and distorted perception of reality. People do not suffer from split personalities. Common symptoms- hallucination, lack of motivation, lack of insight, social withdrawal. 

Action to improve women mental health- 

1. Promoting the understanding that women’s mental health is a part of their overall development- neglecting women’s mental health can lead to an increase in heart disease.

2. Support efforts to track the mental health, distress, and well-being of women and girls in national and community-based surveillance. 

3. Promote a recovery-oriented, strength-based approach treatment for women, promulgated by recommendation of presidents’ new freedom commissions.

4. Incorporate gender issues and considerations in emergency preparedness and disaster planning, including mental health issues. 

5. Build resilience and protective factors to promote the mental health of girls and women and aid recovery. 

6. Decrease the amount of time required to translate research findings in women’s mental health into practice.

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