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Women’s Health: Advocating for Overall Well-being

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — May 28, 2020 — 4 min read
May is Women’s Health Month, an opportunity to pause and review how women are doing regarding their overall well-being. This month is also about mental health awareness. With these two important observances together, let’s discuss what mental health looks like from a female perspective. We will also explore obstacles women face when trying to improve their mental health, as well as ideas to assist the women in our lives.

Women’s Mental Health Key Facts

Research shows that more than 1 in 5 women in the United States experienced a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, in the past year.

Mental health disorders can affect women and men differently, as identified by The National Institute for Mental Health:

Mental Health and Women: Facts and Risk Factors

In 2017, 46.6 million adults in the U.S. were treated for a mental illness. This represents nearly 20% of the adult population. The results showed that the percentage of women being treated for mental illness was almost 50% higher than the percentage of men. Why is this happening?

There are no conclusive answers yet, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has done extensive research to analyze why mental illness seems more prevalent in women. Some of WHO’s key findings are:
  • Women are more affected by mental health disorders because of their higher exposure to gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low social status and heavy responsibility for the care of others.
  • Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women compared with men, even when they have similar results on screenings for depression or present identical symptoms.
WHO also identified some of the most common obstacles that women face to access mental health services, which include:
  • Economic barriers – lack of insurance/cost (including premiums and copays)
  • Lack of awareness about mental health issues, treatment options, and available services
  • Stigma associated with mental illness
  • Lack of time and support (time off work, childcare, transportation)
  • Lack of integration of mental and primary health care services

How Can We Help Women Thrive?

Experts suggest that it requires a combination of efforts from different sectors to better support women’s mental health. Some of these efforts involve family and community dynamics and resources, as well as women’s own attitudes and behavior. There are three specific areas that women and their allies should recognize.

Put their mental health first
It’s important that women look after their mental health and make their well-being a priority. Traditionally, women tend to take on the responsibility of caring for the health of their families and communities. Women need support to protect their well-being. Communities should provide resources so women can achieve this goal.

Share caregiving responsibilities
Most caregivers are women, whether they care for their children, partner, parents, other relatives or friends. Female caregivers are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression than women in the general population. Three quarters of people who care for a person with a mental health problem are women. The average age of caregivers is 62 years old. Women can ask for help, as family members, communities and authorities become more supportive and distribute caregiving responsibilities more equally. 

Plan for mid-life and ensure more resources are available for women
Women in mid-life, ages 45 to 60, may be juggling caring for children and older relatives, as well as doing paid work and facing physical health problems. They may also face financial difficulty due to lifelong lower pay, part-time work, caring for family, widowhood or divorce. This combination can increase women’s risk of mental distress. Communities can support women with tools to alleviate these challenges. Together, they can work proactively as women approach this phase of their lives.

For more detailed statistics on the state of women’s mental health, visit American Psychiatric Association

To find more resources for women in North Carolina, visit The Women's Health Branch at the Department of Health and Human Services. This office develops and funds programs and services that protect the health and well-being of women during and beyond their child-bearing years.
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