Day is marked each year on March 8. This year’s theme is #BalanceForBetter, and
as we observe this day, it is only prudent that we address women’s mental
health. With more clarity about women’s mental health, it is then possible to
address women’s needs in a better way.
There is no health
without mental health. In marking International Women’s Day, this provides an
excellent chance to address the difference between men and women as far as
mental health is concerned.
Gender and Women’s Mental Health
Mental illness affects
both men and women, often interfering with one’s ability to lead a full life.
While the general rates of mental illness are similar for men and women, there
are unique gender-based differences in terms of how the mental illnesses
According to a report by WHO, gender is a key factor in mental health. Over the years, the significant burden of mental illness has been highlighted more that the gender-specific factors surrounding the same.
Read More: #PPDMyStory – One Kenyan Mom’s story and how she got help
Gender is a critical
element because it establishes the differences between men’s and women’s
control over their vulnerability to particular mental health risks. Nowhere is
this more evident than in the rates of common mental illnesses – anxiety,
depression and psychosomatic symptoms.
Gender differences in terms of mental
Research shows that
the three common mental illnesses affect 1 in every 3 people. Depression for
instance, is twice as common in women as it is in men. There is a reason for
this – the symptoms of depression and anxiety are directly related to interlinked
factors. These factors include gender-based roles, societal expectations and
To put this in
perspective, consider the following gender specific risks that affect more
women than they do men:
Based Violence (GBV)
- Poor pay
(and in light of this, the global pay gap between men and women)
and complications arising thereof
Read More: Postpartum PTSD: When moms experience trauma during childbirth
It is important to clarify that this is not a battle between men and women. We cannot be blind to the fact in Kenya, men are more likely to die by suicide than women. A survey carried out by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that 421 cases of suicide were reported in 2017. Out of these cases, 330 of the suicides reported were by men.
Why the gender-based differences in
terms of mental health?
The fact that most women take up responsibilities in caring for families and running their households seems to contribute significantly to this gender-based difference. For some, this comes at a steep cost when you consider the time and energy that goes into running households, a labour which, for the most part goes unpaid. This takes a huge toll on women’s mental health and financial status.
Read More: The Invisibleness of Stay-At-Home Motherhood
Add to this some of
the challenges that women face at the workplace, particularly in male-dominated
fields and it is easy to see the need for gender equality. But this does not,
and should not take away from the need to promote women’s mental health.
How can women take care of their
As we celebrate
International Women’s Day under the theme #BalanceForBetter, it is an opportune
reminder that behind every woman playing her role in society, is a human being
whose physical, emotional and mental well-being matters. Mental health is at
the core of our well-being.
Below are some tips to
help care for your mental health.
Take care of your physical health
Poor physical health
increases the risk of mental illness. This is why mental health and physical
health should not be thought of as separate entities. What is good for the body
is good for the mind. Make sure to have a balanced diet, get adequate sleep and
engage in physical activity.
Maintain healthy supportive
relationships is key to a woman’s mental wellbeing. These relationships not
only offer support, they also provide much needed stability in the midst of
life’s daily challenges.
placed on women sometimes make it difficult to draw a distinction between
different aspects of life. To improve your mental health, it is important to
create boundaries between your professional and home life. This allows you to
plug into your social networks and enjoy interests outside the workplace and at
It is said that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first before taking care of others. Whether that is staying indoors over the weekend, practising affirmations, cutting out toxic friendships or simply unplugging from the internet. Read More on selfcare here.
Be aware of the symptoms of mental
Awareness is an
important part of caring for your mental health. Knowing what symptoms to look
out for is key to help with your mental wellbeing, especially because one’s
mental health will vary throughout their life.
Happy International Women’s Day!