Stories

Women & Mental Health

May 13, 2022
Wellbeing

After a history of denial, misdiagnosis, neglect and maltreatment, mental health has finally become a household word, as well as a conversation in the workplace. Centuries before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people suffered from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and a host of other mental disorders. Looking at the mental health statistics in America, we can begin to see the impact it is having in our lives, workplace and our country. 

The following data comes from the National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Health America, and National Alliance on Mental Illness, John Hopkins Medicine, and the Center for Disease Control, and Our World in Data.

  • 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental illness.
  • Almost 6 in 10 people with mental illness get no treatment or medication.
  • In 2019, an estimated 47.6 million adults (19% of the country) had a mental illness, but only 43% received any kind of mental health care.
  • More than 40,000 Americans die annually from suicide.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 44 and under and the fifth leading cause of death for ages 45 – 54. For every woman who dies by suicide, four men die by suicide, but women are 3x more likely to attempt suicide.
  • Mental health illness rates were significantly higher for adolescents (about 50%) and young adults (about 30%).
  • Anxiety disorders are the highest reported mental health issue in the U.S. with 42.5 million Americans suffering from this illness.
  • Serious mental illness costs the country more than $190 billion in lost earnings every year.
  • An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • Almost half of Americans will experience an episode of mental illness in their lives.
  • There are 4.5 million children in the United States diagnosed and living with anxiety.
  • ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most common mental disorders affecting children.
  • 322 million people worldwide live with depression
  • Almost 800 million people suffer from mental health disorders worldwide.

The history of mental health as it relates to women is actually the foundation for mental health care today. Rtor.org writes about the History of Hysteria: “Historically, traditional gender roles and social perspectives have conspired to paint a strange and oppressive picture of women’s mental health.

In ancient Greece and Egypt, people believed that if women’s wombs weren’t continuously satisfied with sex or impregnation, the uterus would wander to other parts of the body, thereby causing a host of mental health problems. Eventually, this theory led to the use of “hysteria” as a catch-all diagnosis for women’s psychological and physical health issues.

It wasn’t until roughly the 16th century that men began to understand the female reproductive system from a medical standpoint. Men began to act as gynecologists and midwives, roles historically and overwhelmingly held by women in earlier times.

With the decreasing participation of women combined with men’s rising power over women’s medicine, the general public came to fear women’s mental health problems, associating them with witchcraft and dark magic. Sadly, many women were persecuted and murdered under the pretense of being “witches” when they or their neighbors have simply suffered from mental health disorders and other serious illnesses. Disturbingly, these attitudes did not change for several centuries, even as the rest of the world progressed.

Hundreds of years later, doctors were still diagnosing women with “hysteria” to explain away symptoms of other disorders. Of course, these diagnoses and treatments were — and still are — firmly rooted in sexist beliefs. Before the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century, women didn’t have rights independent of men, which ultimately left them without any option other than marriage and motherhood. Without a voice in the medical field or the world of public policy, women and their mental health issues were overlooked, stigmatized, and silenced for so many years.

Woman and Mental Health Conditions Today

1 in 5 (19%) women in the United States experienced a mental health condition in the past year, such as depression or anxiety. Many mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder affect more women than men or affect women in different ways from men. 

It is clearly documented that women’s mental health is also linked to experiences of violence and abuse.  

  • 53% 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

 

Mental health and poverty

  • 29% of women in poverty are 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

 

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Women

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women face additional inequalities and challenges to their mental health, such as racism and stigma, and are at risk for experiencing Common Mental Disorders.
  • 29% of Black women, 24% of Asian women, and 29% of mixed-race women have a common mental disorder, compared to 21% White British women, and 16% White other women

 

Mental conditions among young women and girls.

  • (75%) of mental health issues are established before the age of 24, and young women have emerged as the highest-risk group for mental ill health.
  • (25.7%) of young women 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)

This statistics show us the importance of obtaining a good medical as well as psychological history. NIH reported: 

“Women who had ever experienced sexual violence in their lifetime—including sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment—were more likely to develop high blood pressure over a seven-year follow-up period, according to findings from a large, longitudinal study of women in the United States. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicated that sexual violence was a common experience, affecting more than 20% of the women in the sample.

“Our results showed that women who reported experiencing both sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment had the highest risk of hypertension, suggesting potential compounding effects of multiple sexual violence exposures on women’s cardiovascular health,” said Rebecca B. Lawn, Ph.D., of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, lead author on the study”. 

 

 

Resources

Here is a list of a variety of resources for women’s mental health; however physical health is equally important on the healing journey. There is so much information available to use the main point is to use it. 

Wellview offers a Wellness Program that includes mental health counseling for individuals, families and couples. It is a valuable benefit and great investment in yourself and your family. 

Here are some things to begin to integrate into your daily schedule. 

  • Self-care: Relax and develop a good support system. 
  • Stress reduction (meditation, exercise, gardening, bike riding etc.)
  • Exercising regularly helps to improve our mood by releasing endorphins. Exercise also helps to improve sleep and weight loss. 
  • Work-life balance: Boundaries and time management, learn to say NO. 
  • Embrace your spiritual life. Take time each day to be grateful and appreciate the small things that we sometime take for granted. 

To Your Health!



Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We can’t wait to work with you!

– Lorraine Edey, PhD., LCW, AFC

Mental Health Specialist | E-Mail Lorraine

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