Posted: March 24th, 2023
Mental disorders refer to a wide range of health conditions that affect behavior, mood, and thinking. Many people may experience issues with their mental health from time-to-time, while in some cases the conditions may go unnoticed. Those concerns are termed as mental illnesses in instances where the ongoing signs and symptoms create mental impairment that affects the individual’s ability to function. Mental disorders affect men and women differently (Edge, Newbold, and McKeary, 2014). I agree that women are the most at-risk populations to mental disorders compared to men. It is worth noting that some mental health illnesses are unique to women, which include perinatal depression, perimenopause-affiliated depression, and premenstrual dysphoric among other disorders. Other mental conditions, such as bipolar, dementia, schizophrenia, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and generalized anxiety, among other disorders affect both men and women, but at varying degree. In essence, mental conditions are more common in women as compared to their male counterparts. Although various factors can contribute to higher rates of mental health in women compared to men, gender differences have been the most linked aspects. Therefore, I believe that any society that values mental health and intends to have a population that enjoys life should enhance equity and empower all genders.
Women Mental Health in the Canadian Context
Through research and personal experience, it is evident that wide ranges of mental health conditions are more prevalent in women compared to men. According to Goldner (2016), women use mental health services frequently as compared to men, which give credence to the idea that women require a wider range of support and treatment options for such health conditions than what is currently offered. I agree that this evidence implies that the needs of women regarding their mental well-being are significantly different from those men and hence, require specific and elaborate attention. Despite this evidence, Canada has not translated these findings into policy, which has greatly contributed to inadequacies in treatment and support leading to poor mental health outcomes for women.
In many parts of the world, including Canada, mental health services have been isolated from the main treatment, and often termed as orphaned children. Indeed, this is because those conditions have received small proportions of health funds. In addition, Medicare only covers certain kinds of psychiatric issues. Hence, this challenge has created a society where only the affluent and people who can afford private health insurances to access mental health treatments. Most women fall under this category and rely on public health cover since most of their population is concentrated in low wage and part-time jobs (Edge, Newbold, & McKeary, 2014). Therefore, women are ineligible for programs that assist employees, which hinders their capacity to seek mental health treatment options.
Social Determinants of Women’s Mental Health
The social determinants of health are linked to women’s mental health not only in Canada but globally. Although the divergences in rates and diagnosis of mental health amid men and women may result from other factors such as the interaction between biological and environmental elements, the social aspects are connected to these differences (Delara, 2016). In Canada, for example, women are twice likely to develop mental illnesses than men. Young women have indicated higher rates of depression and anxiety than young men (Delara, 2016). Besides, they are more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders, phobias, seasonal affective disorders, and panic disorders among other psychiatric conditions. Therefore, social inequalities, diversity, and poverty are some of the social determinants of health that have been linked to the differences in mental health.
In the global society, women are not a homogenous group. Gender and sex overlap in various ways with physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, age, and class, as well as life experiences. Hence, this intersection brings in a wide range of mental health outcomes in females. Most societies view women as subordinate to men. Even in the labor workforce, women are assigned positions that are led by men. Consequently, they experience systematic discrimination in their attempts to rise to power, access prestige position, and enjoy the resource allocation. For instance, in Canada, immigrant women are the worst hit by gender discrimination in the workforce since they work in the informal sectors and most cases, occupy lower professional categories, and earn low wages (Delara, 2016). Hence, such discrimination exacerbates their living conditions and increases both psychological stressors, making them prone to mental health issues.
People in different social contexts perceive and experience gender roles differently. In most cases, household duties are perceived as women’s roles, which is another form of gender discrimination that increases their vulnerability to develop mental health issues. For instance, many women play the role of a nanny, a wife, and taking care of household chores, while their husband may only concentrate on supporting the family financially. Such patriarchal scenarios are common experiences of women living in the contemporary world. The gender hierarchy and male domination also hinder women from accessing timely medical attention when they suffer from mental health (Delara 2016). Thus, gender differences configure the position of women in the social hierarchy and in the perceptions and experiences that shape their daily lives. Gender is a strong structural determinant of mental health, which interrelates with other factors of women’s mental health, including age, social support, education, and occupation as well as income.
Poverty and Socioeconomic Status
As I highlighted in an earlier discussion, financial constraints are some of the barriers to mental health services and care among women. Poverty has made women lower the frequencies at which they seek mental health care, especially the uninsured and underinsured. Subsequently, they become reluctant to seek medical attention in case of mental health illnesses. Socioeconomic status is measured by a person’s education, occupation, and income (Delara, 2016). Hence, it determines the behavior of individuals and their living conditions, which in turn induces higher or lower susceptibility of mental health problems.
I believe that the impact of socioeconomic status on women’s mental health can be described through the lens of material, psychological, and behavioral pathways. The material aspect relates to the living conditions and economic hardship in women’s environments, such as in their household, working conditions, and neighborhood. During one of my field activities, I realized that people of low socioeconomic statuses live in poor housing conditions and can suffer from cold, dampness, and mold compared to wealthy and middle-class women. Single households with women experience the impact of this status as the breadwinner. Their households are characterized by noise, insufficient indoor air, overcrowding, and lack of privacy, all which influence their mental well-being. Poor living conditions attributable to lower socioeconomic statuses affect the behavioral pathways of this population (Delara, 2016). They develop unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, smoking, and consumption of alcohol in their attempts to cope with the difficulties in life, which are actions that increase their vulnerability to developing mental health conditions. The psychological effect underlying the association between low socioeconomic statuses and women’s mental health is well illustrated when I adopt a broad definition of affluence and dearth, which determines a person’s autonomy, liberty, and empowerment. I believe that the social hierarchy of women in the male-dominated society hinders them from possessing autonomy over conditions that lead their way of life. Therefore, material, psychological, and behavioral aspects that stem from low socioeconomic statuses are other causal pathways for the development of mental illnesses in women.
Women’s Mental Health in the Lens of Feminist and Intersectional Theories
Many people do not understand why mental health is a feminist issue, and this can be conceptualized if I discuss Feminism. As Hooks (2016) indicates, feminism is a movement aimed at eradicating the issues of sexism, oppression, and sexist exploitation for every person. The movement has strived to earn the rights of women to make decisions about their reproductive systems, to vote, and to seek occupational opportunities. Most importantly, the movement has integrated an intersectional understanding of human identity by including issues about ability, class, status quo, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age into its discourses (In Armstrong & In Pederson, 2015). The fact that women’s mental illnesses are not taken seriously makes it a feminist issue. Women’s experiences have been regarded as “pathologized” by their male counterparts. They are more likely than men to be regarded as mad or irrational in the media and daily conversations. Many are times women’s issues and life experiences have been characterized as disordered based more on their stature as women than by the signs and symptoms they exhibit.
Within the field of women’s mental health, I emphasize on the issue of whether the intersectional concept can be applied to the various contexts of women’s mental health illnesses. In essence, women being a minority gender can provoke feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness as they do not expect anything to change after all (Goicolea, Öhman, & Vives-Cases, 2017). By breaking the silence about these feelings while emphasizing on women’s strength, a counselor can encourage women and thus empower them. In turn, this empowerment would help them accept life realities and deal with the situation at hand. It would also help them resist the hierarchical social attitudes and the internalization of negative conducts. I concur that the intersectional theory is relevant to the study of mental health in women as it has augmented the understanding of the complex intersections amid the different aspects of gender inequality and socioeconomic statuses of women in the Canadian context.
Strategies to Promote the Mental Well-being of Women
I am certain that Nurses play a pivotal role when it comes to the management and treatment of women with mental disorders. For instance, In Canada, licensed practical nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, and registered nurses are employed in the area of psychiatric health. However, the numbers of nursing practitioners working in this department have reduced. Hence, the Canadian administration should ensure that more nursing practitioners in this department are hired (Bartram & Chodos, 2014). Considering that access to mental health treatment and care are critical, it is imperative to increase the nursing personnel. As of now, no career pathways for nursing practitioners are available to train them to work in the mental health department. Indeed, nursing practitioners who can diagnose and treat mentally ill patients are very few. Therefore, I believe that Canada should develop educative programs that will equip nurses with the skills and knowledge to diagnose and prescribe medications for mental illnesses.
As I have highlighted in the discussion above, nurses play a major role in the improvement of mental health outcomes, but they require support from other stakeholders to overcome mental illnesses. Indeed, to address the issue of women’s mental health in Canada, the government and other concerned parties should deal with the daily life stressors that increase women’s vulnerability. This includes addressing the hierarchical divisions and promoting women’s socioeconomic statuses. Such an initiative can be enhanced by ensuring that education and employment opportunities are accessible by the citizens. In addition, the living conditions of single women households should be promoted. Reducing disparities that exist among the affluent and low status could assist women who are battling health issues related to mental health. Many women do not seek treatment options due to the high costs and the fact that public medical covers do not cater for most mental conditions. Therefore, the government should create mental health promotion initiatives that are in line with the needs of society. The approaches should be consistent with factors that increase women’s vulnerability to developing mental health illnesses. Most importantly, the Canadian federal government should form a group that comprises advocates of women’s mental health, Canadian health representatives, consumers, and a government agency in every province to implement the strategies for promoting women’s mental well-being.
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