Prevalence of mental health problems differs between men and women and both sexes also differ in the way they express their need for mental health care. Factors which influence risk of mental illness in females include household and parenting responsibilities, sexual abuse, intimate-partner violence and an income which is relatively lower than that of men. In order for mental health services to be considered as catering for the needs of females, they should include perinatal care, violence and abuse and push for gender and ethnic equality.
According to an adult psychiatric morbidity survey in the UK, common mental disorders have been increasing in women, between 1993 and 2014. However, we rush to state that women suffer from mental health problems more than men but it could be that women report having a problem more than men do.
- The stereotypical image of a therapy session is considered to be very female friendly. This is because the focus is on sitting down and talking about feelings which might be more uncomfortable for men, for the simple reason that they were not brought up in a way which pushes them to be open about their feelings. Society has developed a picture which led men to be raised as needing to be tough and keep their feelings inside while women as sensitive and open about their feelings in a manner which became considered as annoying and weak.
Being mindful of gender norms and stereotypes is an important step to increase the search for psychological help from the part of men and the recognition of mental disorders and issues. It is difficult for males to be expected to open up about their emotions to a stranger when they have grown up to hide their feelings even from the people who are closest to them.
- Men are also under-represented in mental health services, that is, there are more women having a psychological profession than men. This is attributed mainly to the fact that women have been conditioned more to express care and sensitivity in society than men.
- Not only are men depicted as less suitable for the profession but even the ideas which govern the main psychotherapeutic approaches are not in line with masculine principles in society. Of course, these messages are often communicated indirectly, however, they make it difficult for men to pursue this line of work.
It is important to take the issue of equality into consideration as we tend to focus a lot on women’s rights and forget what feminists originally fought for – equality between both sexes. Therefore, it is imperative that we try as best we can to make all branches in society, including mental health services, as suitable for both sexes and for different genders as well. The nature of mental health services being one which can not only improve the lives of people but also save it, makes the need for these settings to be as approachable as possible.
Abel, K. and Newbigging, K. (2018). Addressing unmet needs in women’s mental health. [ebook] London: British Medical Association, pp.1-12. Available at: http://file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/Womens-health-mentalhealth-report-aug2018.pdf.
Morison, L., Trigeorgis, C. and John, M. (2014). Are mental health services inherently feminised? | The Psychologist. Thepsychologist.bps.org.uk. Available at: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-27/edition-6/are-mental-health-services-inherently-feminised.
Niblock, S. (2019). Why mental health services need to become more “man-friendly”. HSJ. Available at: https://www.hsj.co.uk/mental-health/why-mental-health-services-need-to-become-more-man-friendly/7025363.article.
Luanne Grima is a psychology student who works as a childminder with Willingness. She also forms part of Betapsi.