Why Are Women Still Lacking In Mental Health?

The mental health system has largely ignored the needs of women. The problem is not limited to a lack of women at the professional or medical level. Many women are living in poverty, struggling with the stigma and social pressure that is put on women to “be a wife, mother, housewife, etc” without the opportunity to be the most healthy, creative, powerful person they can be. The system doesn’t provide the care for the women, the system protects them, which makes it very difficult to get the support and care they need to get healthy and to be a strong, resilient individual.

If I had to go to my childhood self that was diagnosed as mentally ill in preschool, and say, “What are you doing?” I would have told him, “Oh, I’m being a princess.” But at my point of departure, I would have become a rebel who was angry, had strong emotions and was able to articulate my feelings and express them in action. When I say that many women are still not receiving the care and support they need, I’m not saying they aren’t. People are in a state of self-reinvention, or coming out of hiding. The goal shouldn’t be to hide or escape. We should embrace our feelings and the reactions they create. Our reaction to events around us often reflects who we really are on a different level. For example, when I see somebody else who has difficulty navigating in society, it triggers my emotional response of trying to help them find themselves. My reaction is not a self-absorbed concern, but a real concern for them and their situation. It’s the same with a partner: If they are struggling, you know what they need, and how they’re reacting. We all need something from others. It doesn’t always have to be a physical reaction. It also shouldn’t be about hiding. It shouldn’t be about avoiding people.

If a woman chooses to do something like this, or goes to an agency wanting to get help, there are many agencies willing and able to help them. But there doesn’t seem to be as much focus on this in the mainstream mental health system as there is with men. I’m not sure I would have seen things this way in the first place had I grown up with male colleagues who were also struggling with mental health. 

Do you see any changes in how mental health services are delivered to women as they approach adulthood?

It’s a lot harder to seek help for any mental illness in the current system. Most women who go through it, are at some point alone and alone with a loved one. They can become isolated and isolated from their families and community, from a sense of meaning and purpose, and from social support from other women. They may even drop out of the system entirely if they don’t understand that it’s not easy. There are some women who’ve been through the system who did a lot of better with it than others. They found that the right type of help can have a major impact on their sense of freedom. What I would like to see happen is for more women to come forward to seek help for mental illness. It’s the only population that is underrepresented in the system. What’s unique about women’s mental health is that it’s treated as if it doesn’t exist. Women who come forward with feelings that are not in line with society’s norms don’t often seek help, or feel out of place trying to find a way to share it in the same way that men, who have been given more permission and a sense of “freedom” to express their feelings, do. And women who seek help do find that there is more stigma, less support resources and less opportunities to be healthy and to be creative within the system.

I would call attention to the fact that there is more stigma towards women, and therefore women who struggle with mental health, and more support services, for men. Women who do well with mental health, and have strong social support from family and friends, often have other opportunities that boys do not have. Because of that, we have the resources to provide men with more appropriate treatment, but not to women.

Why are women also struggling, but not as much or as publicly?

Part of it relates to stigma. People have very strong and deeply held beliefs about the nature of women’s sexuality. They believe, often based in fear of male domination, that women will lie and manipulate, and the men they date will cheat on and abuse them. The social structures in society have a strong hold on any discussion of the idea of rape and abuse.