Though data show men outnumber women in approaching hospitals for mental health issues, psychiatrists say the numbers do not reflect the reality. According to them, at least 25 per cent of women are suffering from depression and anxiety and hardly visit psychiatrists due to stigma and lack of support from husbands and in-laws. Most married women visiting them are usually accompanied by their parents.
As Women’s Day approaches, we take a look at one of the most important health problems faced and often ignored by women - depression and anxiety. According to government psychiatrists, depression and anxiety are twice as more common in females and affect 25 per cent of women. Despite increasing awareness on mental health and steps by the government to erase the stigma around it, women still do not come for treatment, rue doctors at both private and government hospitals.
Doctors say the inherent nature of women, combined with hormonal changes at different points of life, makes them more prone to depression and anxiety. Women’s biology and hormonal imbalance cause depression. During pregnancy, after pregnancy, after menopause, during menopause, women go through major hormonal changes. These changes affect women greatly.
Besides biological reasons, stress also causes depression. “Both men and women face stress. However, a woman’s day-to-day responsibilities carry inherent stress. Men get money, power and appreciation which alleviate their stress. When women do not get these for their work, it causes problems. Men have a lot of ways to cope up with their stress, while women do not, because of their social situations,” says Dr R Geetha, Director, Athma Hospital, Tiruchy.
While there is a stigma surrounding mental health, it is more so for women. Doctors cite lack of support as one of the major reasons. “Women just keep on adjusting. They do not come for treatment. Women lack support from their families. Most women who come to us, come with their parents, not husbands. While a woman is a caregiver, men often do not react well to their wives’ mental health problems,” says Dr Niranjana, Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital (MGMGH). Women, being the caregivers, often lack time to visit doctors.
“Women tend to ignore and repress their problems. They do it for almost everything, including mental health. Their family members also fail to notice their problems,” said Geetha.
Here are some facts about women’s mental health that ought to be talked about more often, not just on women’s day:
- One in five women (19%) experience a Common Mental Disorder (such as anxiety or depression), compared with one in eight (12%) men.
- 53% of women who have mental health problems have experienced abuse.
- More than three quarters of women (78%) of women who have faced extensive physical and sexual violence – in both childhood and adulthood – have experienced life threatening trauma, and 16% have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Over a third (36%) of women who have faced extensive physical and sexual violence in both childhood and adulthood have attempted suicide, and a fifth (22%) have self-harmed
- Women in poverty are more likely to face poor mental health, with 29% of women in poverty experiencing a common mental health disorder compared to 16% of women not in poverty.
- Women in poverty who have experienced abuse are even more likely to experience poor mental health
- 29% Black women, 24% Asian women, and 29% mixed-race women has a common mental disorder, compared to 21% White British women, and 16% White other women.
- A quarter of young women (25.7%) have self-harmed – more than twice the rate for young men. There is evidence this could be higher and is growing.
- 26% of young women experience a Common Mental Disorder, such as anxiety or depression – almost three times more than young men.
- 1 in 7 young women (16-24) have PTSD (compared with 3.6% of young men).
Mani, S. (2020). Let’s talk about women’s mental health. Retrieved from here.
Women’s Mental Health Facts. Retrieved from here.