Good mental health means you’re at a stable state in your life and at ease to accomplish your personal goals. But, there can be many reasons such as trauma, a bad personal experience, and even sleep disorders that can contribute to your mental health worries.
In Australia, mental illness is very common both for men and women across all age groups. In Australia, about 1 in every 5 women aged between 16 to 85 experiences some kind of mental health illness in any given year.
According to the World Health Organization, gender is one of the critical determinants of mental health illness. In fact, in Australia, the rate of depression and anxiety is higher in women than men. Despite being so common, mental health needs are highly underdiagnosed and patients too are reluctant to seek professional help.
Why is mental health wellbeing important for women?
A woman plays many roles in her lifetime- including raising her children, taking care of the family, domestic and professional duties and so on. With this, also comes unique health challenges that a woman could experience in her lifetime. They also undergo major physical changes during the stages of life such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause that can contribute to their mental health issues.
Depression and anxiety can affect both men and women, however, there is an increased chance of these illnesses in women during her pregnancy, childbirth and the year after. Women tend to give more time and effort to their family and daily responsibilities but can often forget about their own medical needs and their own self-care.
Unique factors affecting women’s mental health
Chronic diseases are one of the leading causes of death and hospitalisation for both men and women in Australia. This umbrella term that includes diseases like coronary diseases, cardiovascular disease affects millions of women worldwide and contributes to developing mental health issues in women.
The most effective way to take charge of your chronic health is to regularly undergo health screenings and be aware of your risk factors. This includes monitoring and maintaining your mental health.
Pregnancy and perinatal health conditions
Pregnancy and childbirth are major life events for women. Adjusting to this new phase of life as a mother and coping with the day to day challenges of early motherhood can leave women tired and stressed. A woman with a history of depression and anxiety is more likely to develop further mental health issues during her motherhood and pregnancy.
Menopause causes fluctuations in hormones which can lead to mood swings and irritability. This can in turn contribute to anxiety and depression in women.
Menopause also leads to physical challenges like prolonged tiredness, weight gain and sleeping disorders- all of which can adversely affect women’s mental health.
Factors that can protect against developing mental illness
- Professional support from mental health experts, GPs and other health providers
- Regular screenings for chronic diseases
- Psychological assistance during childbirth
- Regular physical exercise and living an active life
- Balanced diet
- Psychological support from friends and family
Improving mental health through GPs
Seeking help from professionals like a GP is a great start. GPs are often your primary healthcare providers who are well trained in managing mental health issues and finding out how your mental health issues can be linked to any physical changes of your body.
They are able to recognise and treat mental health diseases as a consequence of life events, acute and chronic diseases in women and stress. They can address a woman’s medical needs and concerns right from childhood to old age.