By: Megan Pintok
The impact of gender in relation to mental health is composed of correlations between roles and status within society which results in the limitations of treatment exposure, accessibility to resources, and acceptance. Emerging evidence indicates that the impact of gender in mental health is compounded by its interrelationships with other social, structural determinants of mental health status, including education, income and employment as well as social roles and rank (WHO, n.d., pg 11) When analyzing the influence of gender on mental health, it is important to consider the different powers that men and women possess and essentially alternate the patterns of mental illness. This includes men being more likely to be involved in alcohol dependence and women having depression. Gender differences also root from the risk exposures towards violence against women and lack of autonomy which limits the power women having control over decisions of their lives and later impact control over mental health outcomes. Women are affected both physically and emotionally by cultural practices or lack of health care which deny them choices about fertility, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. Accessibility to health resources to support these choices are typically minimal, unaffordable, or not permitted by dominant cultures. (Raphael et al, 2012, pg 418). Vulnerability to mental health issues towards women are strengthened by the beliefs of their cultures creating the lack of voice to express the choices they desire for their own bodies and well-being. It is critical that women empowerment and pro-choice is given to voice the issues of accessibility women often face when it comes to cultural practices and judgement. If women of all cultures were able to make choices for themselves, a change in equitable environment would suffice human rights of women and create a safe and free life for all. Gender differences exist in patterns of help seeking psychological disorders. Depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sexual violence, domestic violence and escalating rates of substance use affect women to a greater extent than men across different countries and different settings (WHO, 2013). Addressing these issues in countries where dominant cultures are essentially limiting women from making their own choices and are often exposed to behaviors that affect them, there will be a decrease in the number of mental health issues women face and preventing lifelong consequences of mental illness.
Based on the media and readings this week, I could not help but think of my mother and how she grew up in a catholic culture in the Philippines. I think about the different aspects of her life that have shaped her into the woman and mother she is today. My mother grew up in a strict household with a mother who physically and verbally abused her. In addition to sexual abuse she faced from other family members and individuals in her home growing. From pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, I was able to relate my mother’s situation to the exposure of adversity Dr. Harris described that disrupt the development of children’s brains. In addition to the observation of Adverse Childhood Experiences including the history of exposure includes physical , emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect, and parental mental illness (Harris, 2020). When considering my mother’s ACES experience, I can see the life-long effects on her mental health such as depression and anxiety. It is interesting to put Dr. Harris’s findings into perspective of my mom’s childhood trauma and seeing adversity shape the woman she is. Additionally, my mom growing up in a culture where mental health was not even considered a health issue there was a lack of resources for my mother to obtain proper help for her depression and PTSD from her abuse. Women with mental health problems in such situations may be further disadvantaged by the lack of culturally appropriate services, and the understanding of the nature of mental illness which may be differently perceived and understood in their country of origin or cultural belief system. This may also apply to their views of the diagnosis and treatment that may be offered and the fear of stigma within their own cultural group (Raphael et al, 2012, pg 420). When seeking mental health services here in the United States, the only option she is given is weekly counseling or prescription medicine to calm her. In her views culturally and personally, she fears talking to someone she doesn't even know about her childhood trauma and refuses medication use to numb her emotions, she continues to bury the depression that overcomes her. It is interesting for me to put the media and readings from this week into the perspective of my mom’s life and visualizing the mental health impact that she has faced growing up and migrating to a new country with different views on mental health.
Harris, N. B. (2014, September). How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime
Raphael, B., Nadelson, C., Taylor, M., & Jacobs, J. (2012). Human Rights and Women's Mental Health . In Mental Health and Human Rights (pp. 415–427). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Retrieved on February 18, 2020 from file:///C:/Users/pinkp/Downloads/raphael_et.al._ch21_mental_health-1%20(1).pdf
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Gender Disparities In Mental Health. Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence. Retrieved on February 18, 2020 from https://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/242.pdf?ua=1
World Health Organization. Gender and Women's Mental Health. (2013, June 24). Retrieved on February 18, 2020 from https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/