Discussing women’s mental health is an excellent way to honor International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History Month throughout March.

Psychiatry and mental health treatment did more harm than good for women in the 19th century and much of the 20th century. Women who rebelled against Victorian authority risked being declared insane and placed in an asylum. In the 1960s, women were given addictive tranquilizers rather than treatment. The diagnosis of hysteria was used for centuries to cover “strange behaviors” in women. It did not disappear as a diagnosis until 1980.

Thankfully, women’s mental health care vastly improved in the late 20th century with better assessment tools and diagnosis, evidence-based treatment and effective medications. It’s important to let women know their mental health is important and treatment is effective.

According to the World Health Organization, women experience anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms that cannot be explained medically more than men. These issues begin in the teen years. These illnesses, if not treated, can lead to disability and death.

Mental health issues are more common than many other disease but are the least likely to be addressed. Nearly half of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime
Some researchers believe cultural stress contributes to women’s higher rates of depression and anxiety. Nearly a third of households headed by single women live below the poverty line. Women juggle parenting with careers where they make less money than their male counterparts. They also are bombarded by images of “female perfection” in the media and often judge themselves against those images.

How do you identify someone is struggling with a mental health issue?

Physical symptoms

  • Sluggish
  • Exhausted
  • Stomach ache or nausea
  • Achy
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Behavioral symptoms

  • Stops favorite activities
  • Sleeps all the time or not at all
  • Eats less or more
  • Shows up late for work or school
  • Lack of pride in appearance

It’s important to ask if everything is OK and to suggest a doctor’s visit. Caring friends and family need to be persistent in voicing concerns and offering help because many people are unaware or in denial of their mental health issues.

Mental health treatments are effective and affordable. Getting better starts with a phone call to a physician, our office or another mental health provider.