I’m going to try to stay calm and reasoned with this topic, but I can’t promise it won’t spill over into a full on rant. I’ve looked at several academic journal articles over the past few days and the interplay between gender and mental health is complex. The way this complexity is presented on some websites concerns me.
Let’s dive in to a well respected web medical resource, Mayo Clinic, and their article Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap. Contributing factors are listed and I have graphed these below by word count as a proxy for importance of the factor.
I’ll give them points for being thorough, at least so far as “uterus problems” are concerned. The combined word total for what I’m going to call the “It’s Your Uterus” biological factors is 521 words vs 136 for life circumstances and culture. That’s easy math: 5 times as many. Now, I use Mayo Clinic’s website a lot and I’m not bashing them: it is after all a health website, so this focus on biology makes sense.
I do, however, believe this is a reflection of general societal views. This is akin to what in the social work profession we call blaming the victim. Even if you think I’m going too far with that parallel, wouldn’t you agree that focusing on the “It’s Your Uterus” explanation is largely unhelpful and discouraging?
All of the societal factors that make women more likely to have depression deserve more focus. These factors contributing to women’s depression are societal issues that can and should be changed! Going a bit deeper in, you might notice that last on the list with the least amount said, is physical and sexual abuse. What? That doesn’t fit with my personal experience, that of most women I know with depression, and it certainly doesn’t fit with some crucial research.
The US Center for Disease Control website for violence prevention lists long-term impacts of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. In both summaries, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and PTSD top the list of consequences. The Canadian government reports show that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence. World Health Organization reports that 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence.
There is cross-over as much of the intimate partner violence is sexual violence. On the other hand, I haven’t delved in to physical assault perpetrated by persons other than intimate partners. Nor does this include sexual harassment, which the #MeToo campaign showed to be of major concern to women in the workplace. Add to this the unfortunate fact that many of us have experienced more than one of these types of abuse. All things considered, a rate of 1 in 3 seems sadly accurate.
1 in 3 is an appalling number. We must change this.
Get involved through volunteering or donating in local or national organizations that work to prevent violence against women. Be active politically on this issue.
(Credit to 1960’s activists)