We hear a lot about gender equality, and I am by no means discrediting equal opportunities for men and women in school and the workplace. I believe everyone should be given equal opportunities to succeed and prosper. But from an early age our gender does influence how we view and experience the world, and unfortunately, gender can play a role in our susceptibility to mental illness.
According to the World Health Organization, woman are two times more likely than men to develop mental illnesses like depression or eating disorders. Women’s biology plays a role in their susceptibility because women have lower serotonin levels than men and will process the chemical at a slower rate causing a greater fluctuation in mood.
Biology isn’t the only factor working against women though. Society as a whole has objectified women in ads and movies and television making the perceived standard of beauty impossible to reach for most women. Nevertheless, women hold themselves to this standard and often suffer from low self-esteem which can be a contributing factor developing a mental illness like depression.
Women are more likely to talk about their mental illness and seek help for it though giving them a lead on the road to recovery over men who may be downplaying the symptoms or uncomfortable admitting they have a problem because of the pressure of social norms.
According to the World Health Organization, men are more than twice as likely than women to develop mental illnesses that involve substance abuse like alcohol dependence and men are three times as likely to be diagnosed with anti social disorders. But depression and other mental illnesses are still prevalent in men.
And while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more often successful in their attempts because they are more likely to use methods that guarantee success.
Understanding how gender differences whether biological or social affect mental health is crucial to diagnosis and treatment, so it shouldn’t be downplayed.
If you want more information, the National Institute of Mental Health is a great resource and has information specific for men (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health/index.shtml) and women (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/women-and-mental-health/index.shtml).
But regardless of gender, mental illness is a ruthless enemy that can only be defeated if we ban together. You can’t fight it alone and you don’t have to. Seek help. Talk to your doctor and find support in your friends and family.