[April 7, 2017] Today is World Health Day, and the topic for this year is depression. The Girls Education Initiative of Ghana-US Inc, GEIG- US is taking advantage of this opportunity to talk a bit more about this global mental health problem.
Last October, a one-year campaign was launched by the World Health Organization in order to encourage more people suffering mental illnesses to seek help. It addressed the importance of creating awareness about this mental issue that affects approximately 350 million people worldwide.
One of the most shocking facts about depression is that it affects girls twice as much as it affects boys. As stated by the Child Mind Institute, an independent nonprofit located in New York, mid-adolescence girls have two times more chances to be diagnosed with a mood disorder than boys. But, why does this happen? According to Child Mind Institute, girls tend to reach maturity earlier than boys in terms of emotional recognition, making them more susceptible to both depression and anxiety. On the other hand, hormonal changes contribute to the appearance of feelings like constant sadness and irritability, as well as other biological factors. Other factors such as personal life circumstances and inherited traits account for the female partiality to depression and mental health issues.
Besides different life events and biological circumstances, there are other elements that contribute specifically to depression in women. The well-known Mayo Clinic published an article last year titled “Depression in Women: Understanding the gender gap”. The article explains how and why some specific factors that affect women contribute to a higher rate of depression in females than in males. Puberty, for example, brings along hormonal changes that contribute on developing this mental health problem. Different experiences during puberty such as the increased pressure to do well in school or identity issues also contribute to depression. Other women experience severe premenstrual syndrome which disrupt their relationships, jobs, studies and other factors of their daily lives. When symptoms get to this point, PMS may have cross the line in what is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is another type of depression. Pregnancy and menopause can also lead to experience hormonal unbalance and feelings of weakness, low energy and trouble sleeping. Post- partum depression, which is probably the one of the most common ones, occurs in approximately 10 to 15% of women. It is a serious medical condition that requires treatment, and it can be associated with birth complications, poor social support, and the responsibility of caring a newborn, among others.
Studies also show that cultural stressors play a crucial role in the development of depression. These stressors can also occur in men, but data supports that this happens in a considerable lower rate. Women seem to be more exposed to unequal power and status, overload by work, and to suffer from more sexual or physical abuse. The fact of a woman feeling powerless can cause low self- esteem, negativity, and lack of control over her life. Women are also much more likely to live in poverty as compared to men, and are exposed to less health care resources. Work overload tends to happen often because many women face the challenge of single parenthood, and they still have to work or they have other different responsibilities besides taking care of their newborn. Last but not least, it is more likely for a woman who experienced sexual, emotional or physical abuse to develop depression at some point during their lives. It has also been found that the majority of the time, women suffering from depression present other health conditions that need treatment as well, such as drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, or anxiety.
Even though this article seeks to inform about this common mental illness, it also aims to encourage people, especially women who suffer from this, to look up for help. Read about depression and other mental health issues, and talk about this as much as you can. Don’t be ashamed to feel what you are feeling. Depression can’t just be cured by “being positive” or trying to “be happier”. Of course, these things help, but the majority of the people who experience depression need some medical and professional treatment to get better. There are effective treatments to this illness, so the path for recovery starts with turning to someone and seeking help.
The World Health Organization is currently promoting a campaign guide in order for people to get involved with depression and mental illness and to contribute to this year’s awareness efforts creating their own movements around this year’s theme. The goal is to inform people and encourage those individuals suffering from this mental illness to seek for help. Let’s remember that there are support systems and effective treatments out there that have been proven to help with depression. A better understanding of depression and mental illness can lead people to seek help and reduce the stigma associated with it.
Today on World Health Day, let’s take the time to read and become aware of this topic. People around you may be experiencing this, and knowing how to detect it on time can help saving much suffering and also save lives.
Steingard, R. Mood Disorders and Teenage Girls. Child Mind Institute. http://ow.ly/ssFe30aDZ0S
National Institute of Mental Health. Depression in Women: 5 things you should know. http://ow.ly/CMga30aE0iG
Mayo Clinic. Depression in Women: Understanding the gender gap. http://ow.ly/WoML30aE0yD
Contributing author: Valeria Ortarola, GEIG communications team member, Caldwell University