Leave no woman – or girl – behind. Mental health & wellbeing for women today.

For International Women’s Day, we’re sharing some facts about the mental health issues facing women and girls.

Because it’s important to understand where we’re starting from, we need to lead with some facts about the current picture for women. Sadly, they don’t feel terribly uplifting. Like these…

  • 1 in 5 Australian women will experience depression, and 1 in 3 will experience anxiety.
  • Women also are more likely than men to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are twice as likely as non-Aboriginal women to report heightened levels of psychological distress.
  • 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Exposure to violence and emotional abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.

And for young women, these…

  • Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are the most common mental health disorders experienced by young people.
  • Some young women struggle with negative feelings about their body image. This can negatively impact their self-esteem, and their relationship with food and exercise.
  • Romantic relationships for young women can also be stressful, particularly if questioning their sexuality or gender.
  • Young women are more likely to engage in self-harm than any other group. The most common age for self-harming behaviours is between 11 and 25. 

Why is it different for women?

Some of the things that make women strong, that allow them to make valuable contributions to our communities, are also the things that make their mental health and wellbeing more vulnerable.

  • Women are more likely to be carers for their sick or disabled friends or relatives. While supporting another person is often a positive experience, it can also be stressful, and impact both the physical and mental health of carers.
  • Women are five times more likely than men to experience a thyroid condition, some of which can lead to depression and anxiety.
  • Pregnancy, having a baby and motherhood are commonly linked to depression and anxiety. The hormonal fluctuations and general life changes associated with becoming a mother can cause significant physical and emotional stress.
  • Women are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during menopause. Hormonal changes in the lead up to menopause can cause a range of difficult physical symptoms, such as weight gain and difficulty sleeping. These changes can also cause mood swings and irritability.

But the better news is, women have so many strengths, and can use these every day to improve their mental health and wellbeing. 

That's right, it's not all doom and gloom! So how can women use their special powers to improve their mental health?

  • Maintain relationships with people who make you feel good. Spend time with them. Share. Connect. Positive relationships and community are some of the biggest influences on health and wellbeing.
  • Eat well. This is important for all women, but particularly for girls during adolescence. And of course make sure you allow yourself treats.
  • Get outside every day. Engage in regular physical activity that you enjoy.
  • Create some balance. We know this can be tricky, but it helps set up quality time for your work, family, and for yourself.
  • Relax. Make sure there are relaxing activities in your week, every week – this could be yoga, gardening, listening to music, or meditation.

What about professional support?

If you feel like you might not be coping, we recommend that you visit your GP. Your GP might refer you on to another health professional, like a psychologist. You can also usually see a psychologist without a referral, if you prefer. If you need someone to talk to urgently, please use the following numbers:

  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline 13 11 14

Younger women might find the following numbers useful:

  • YouthBeyondBlue 1300 22 4636
  • Kid’s Helpline 1800 55 1800

Here at Birch, we support all people regardless of their gender identity. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to think about some of the concerns that are unique to, or more prevalent in women. Even though women are still the most likely to seek psychological support, we are happy to see this changing, and look forward to writing future posts about issues affecting everyone in our community.