Women and Mental Health

The #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a three day certificate training course on Gender and Mental Health from February 13-15. On day 1, Dr. Meenu Anand spoke on the ‘Perspective on Gender and Mental Health.’

Dr. Meenu Anand presented content revolving around gender, gendered practices, Gender, and MH, Gender, and MIH from a Bio Psycho Social Perspective, Gender as a critical determinant of MH: Lifespan perspective, and Gendered trends w.r.t mental illness- World MH Report 2022

She went on to explain the term mental health, as “A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, to realize their abilities, to learn well and work well, and to contribute to their communities” further mentioning about hierarchies in education, policies, law, health, political participation, marriage, old age widowhood. She further quoted that “mental health is too important to be limited to mental health professionals”.

SEX AND GENDER

Gender is the socio-cultural definition given to boys & girls, women & men. Nature makes us male/ female; society makes us feminine & masculine, determines attitudes, behavior, personality traits, roles & responsibilities.

GENDERED SOCIALISATION 

She described how ideal women in society are expected to be i.e. beautiful, caring, nurturing, shy, sacrificing, sensitive, emotional, quiet, tolerant, dependent. Further, she explains the traits of an ideal man in society i.e. smart, rational, strong, assertive, outgoing, aggressive, brave, tough, dominating, and independent.

IMPACT OF PATRIARCHY

She further reflected upon how has patriarchy changed society over a period leading to Male Domination/ Power Relationships, Male Control Over Resources, Both Men and Women affected, Denial of Equality, Justice, Opportunities For Food, Education, Health, Recreation, Decisions Making Pol. Participation. 

GENDERING MENTAL HEALTH:

She further spoke about gendering mental health mentioning its impact on everyone be it women, men, or others leading to negative self-image and subservience, lack of autonomy and agency. She presented a Biopsychosocial Model that consisted of Physiology: a)Disease b)Arousal, Illness Meaning, Emotional Functioning, Coping, Stress, Family/Social: a) Support b) Culture.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES

Psychological Perspective refers to personality, personal beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and experiences. 

She presented further instances, childhood abuse, trauma, violence or neglect, parenting styles-attachment, disciplining, role models, social isolation, loneliness, or discrimination, the death of someone close, personal and family stress, caring for a family member or friend, long-term physical health condition and significant trauma as an adult e g. rape, incest, military combat, being involved in a serious accident, or being the victim of a violent crime.

She further presented a few statistics, 

  • literacy rate for females is 71.5% and 84.4% for males (nfhs 5, 2021)
  • india has a mmr of 103 per 1,00,000 mothers (2017-19, registrar general in 2022)
  • 23.3% of girls under the age of 18 are married (nfhs 5, 2021)
  • 57.2% of women aged 15-49 y anemic (for men-25%) (ne 2021)

Our gender affects our chances of developing a mental health condition. Women tend to be more socio-economically disadvantaged than men and are also more likely to be exposed to intimate partner violence and sexual violence in the community, which are strong risk factors for a range of mental health conditions, especially PTSD. Discrimination against a particular group in society increases the risk of social exclusion and economic adversity, both of which undermine mental health. 

MENTAL HEALTH REPORT 2022

Mental health needs are high but responses are insufficient and inadequate. Mental health systems all over the world are marked by major gaps and imbalances in information and research, governance, resources, and services. Other health conditions are often prioritized over mental health, and within mental health budgets, community-based mental health care is consistently underfunded. On average, countries dedicate less than 2% of their healthcare budgets to mental health. More than 70% of mental health expenditure in middle-income countries still goes towards psychiatric hospitals. Around half the world’s population lives in countries where there is just one psychiatrist to serve 200,000 or more people.

Most people with diagnosed mental health conditions go untreated.

The impact of Covid 19

In 2020, numbers rose significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. All over the world, there was a greater increase in disorder prevalence among females than among males, likely because females were more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fuelling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders by more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. Mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.

Mental health needs are high but responses are insufficient and inadequate. Mental health systems all over the world are marked by major gaps and imbalances in information and research, governance, resources, and services. Other health conditions are often prioritized over mental health, and within mental health budgets, community-based mental health care is consistently underfunded

She presented key highlights from NHMS 2015-16

  • The overall prevalence of mental morbidity is higher among males (13.9%) than among females (7.5%).
  • Male predominance in Alcohol Use Disorders (9.1% v/s 0.5%) and for Bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) (0.6% v/s 0.4%);
  • Specific mental disorders like mood disorders, neurotic disorders, phobic anxiety disorders, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders were higher in females.
  • Neurosis and stress-related disorders (that affected 3.5% of the population) were reported to be (nearly twice as high among females as compared to males.

Conclusion

Women’s mental health needs are not a priority with no/ little treatment and lack of support. There is more stigma in the case of women affected by Mental Illnesses. There is neglect and abuse of affected women, banished from conjugal home and sent to Natal home (if married). Further, difficulty in rehabilitation.

Acknowledgement: This article was published by Rehmat Arora, a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:
Making Gender-Sensitive Mental Health
Unveiling Gendered Dimensions of Mental Health

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