Women and Mental Health Services
Mental health refers to our psychological state and it affects the way we think, feel and behave – it is therefore extremely valuable. Our mental health is always changing and there are times when we all can feel down or anxious however, for others, these feelings can last much longer and develop into an even more serious problem. Mental health problems include a wide range of disorders and conditions which include anxiety, eating disorders, depression and schizophrenia. Due to the stigma attached to mental health problems, many individuals suffer alone. They do not tell family members or friends because of feelings such as guilt and shame and also because of the fear of being labelled ‘crazy’, ‘weak’ or ‘mental’. As a society it is important that we take mental health problems seriously as it can be very challenging for those experiencing it.
Statistics show that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and that the most common diagnosis being ‘Mixed anxiety and depression’. Those most likely to be treated for a mental problem are women especially if they are from BME communities. Some researchers have highlighted racism and poverty as reasons for this while others have also suggested that these statistics could also be linked to mental health problems that can develop after childbirth (which is a vulnerable time for many women). The role of women within the society and the home can also be cited as a reason they are more likely to be treated for a mental health problems. Women tend to take on a variety of caring roles (i.e. wife, mother, carer) which could cause them to forget their own mental health. The abuse women are at risk of each day (such as physical and sexual abuse) can have long-term impacts on their mental health if not addressed early on.
However, the fact that women are more likely to be treated for a mental health problem could be interpreted positively – as a sign that women are willing to seek help and advice if they need to. This however, is extremely dependent on her access to and her understanding of support services. If she is unable to leave her home or cannot speak English then this will not be the case.
There are a number of factors that can cause or trigger mental health problems including violence, isolation, the death of someone close to us, genetics and even unemployment. Recently the Prince’s Trust conducted a study and found that 32% of long-term unemployed young people had thought about committing suicide while 24% admitted to self harming. Sometimes it is very difficult to really pinpoint an exact cause or trigger as there can be many underlying issues and factors can overlap. Not all factors cause the same responses in people so although two people may be unemployed, there are extraneous variable that could also be contributing to the development of a mental health problem such as negative thought patterns and lack of support/understanding from family or friends.
All of us are at risk of developing a mental health illness because, as seen above, it is often directly linked to our surroundings and the things going on in our lives. This world is constantly changing and it is usually expected of us to simply take these changes on and just adapt but in reality this is not always so simple. Not all of us are always able to cope with these changes and the fact that we do not all know that it is ok to find things hard sometimes can cause serious problems. To combat this, there has been a lot of work to educate wider society as well as to provide better services to those that may have or have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Mainstream mental health organisations have also made it a point to ensure that their services are available and better accessible to ALL regardless of ethnic background or gender because it has been found that those from BME communities are less likely to seek help than others. There have also been vast attempts to raise awareness including ‘Mental health awareness week’.
Here at the JAN Trust we offer a place for women within the community to come in and seek culturally sensitive advice and guidance on any issues that maybe affecting them including mental health. We aim to empower women by giving them the chance to overcome the barriers they are facing and work with other organisations to ensure that our service users are receiving the best possible support and care. If you are struggling with mental health problems we encourage you to approach the JAN Trust for help. We are able to carry out needs and risks assessments and then refer victims on to organisations that will provide them with support best suited to their situation. It IS possible to recover from a mental health problem and to also live a productive fulfilling life with one. The first step is to speak out.
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