5 Reasons Indian Women Are More Likely Than Men To Develop Mental Health Issues; We’re Not Surprised!

Posted: October 9, 2019

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10th October, World Mental Health Day, is a good time for women to share their stories, and speak up for themselves and other women, because they are more at risk than men. 

October 10th is celebrated as World Mental Health Day across the world to create awareness about Mental Health and bring together all stakeholders to strengthen the discourse about mental health and reduce the related ignorance, stigma and taboo.

This year the focus is on Suicide Prevention This becomes pertinent for Indian women as various studies in the past have indicate that they remain one of the most vulnerable groups in regard with mental health.

Why are women more vulnerable?

Mental health related issues affect women, men, and other genders apparently equally, though some conditions like social anxiety and long-term depression are more common among women. Abuse and discrimination remain major factors in women’s mental health crisis.

There are several socio-cultural that factors put women at a much greater risk of having a mental health related problem than men. Though social workers often find that women are more ready to talk about their emotions, express feelings as crying and seek support (often barred for men in conventional societies) in their closed networks, they are, however, not allowed to prioritize their health in families conventionally.

So the 5 major socio-cultural factors that prevent them from seeking healthcare for mental health are:

Women as nurturers of family’s health

In India especially, mostly it is the lady of the house who regulates the diet and meals of the entire family and is responsible for grocery shopping, deciding menus and cooking.

So traditionally, women are expected to look after the health of all family members, especially children and the elderly. This role puts additional stress often on women to make healthy choices in limited budgets, cater to various demands and tastes and also never put their choices first.

Women as primary caregivers

Most caregivers in most families are still women. Whether it is the routine care for children, partners, elderly family members, extended family, pets and also family members with illness and/or disability.

Women caregivers often suffer from caregiver burnout, and are more at risk to suffer from anxiety and depression because of their caregiving duties without any break or support. However women receive little or almost no care even when they fall sick.

Absence of support networks for women

As so much of feminist literature, research and movement has asserted women friends are the strongest support a woman can have, often termed a ‘sisterhood’ by feminists due to the empathy involved.

However in conventional societies women are still not allowed to have many ‘friendships’. The friendships they nourish during their growing up years and during education and youth often fade away after marriage due to geographical distances or lack of time and/or freedom to socialize freely. Even the interaction of women on social media is sometimes controlled by partners or families.

Biological & gendered realities like pregnancy, motherhood etc.

Depression amongst pregnant women, post-partum depression and depression among mothers is more common than the figures tell. Modern women often are involved in some kind of paid work, run a household and in addition also handle biologically stressful events like pregnancy, breastfeeding and motherhood.

What are commonly referred to as ‘baby blues’ are often hormonal changes that severely affect a woman’s mental health. Surveys also indicate that a mother’s adverse mental health might affect the offspring’s too in turn, especially daughters, referred to as the Mother Wound.

Sexual crimes & unsafe public spaces

The common perception is that sexual crimes and safety of women at public places is a social issue. However, it also affects the mental health of women badly.

Women often get caged in work that is low income, part-time, work from home, or housework, due to concerns about safety and fears of sexual violence. Rising sexual crimes often make families use this as an excuse to control women’s free movement, and sometimes limit education and work opportunities. The risk of developing PTSD after any traumatic event is 20.4% for women and 8.1% for men because often women don’t retaliate, or even speak about it, and internalize the trauma.

Women are increasingly coming out about oppression and all kinds of discrimination and prejudices. It is time the mental health aspect of all these factors is also highlighted and addressed.

Image source: shutterstock

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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