The deeper I dive into the research surrounding depression and mental health disorders, the stronger my belief grows that depression is a feminist issue.
Feminism often conjures images of bra burning, hairy women eating granola.
Frankly, that sounds awesome to me, but I digress.
In reality, feminism is much simpler than that.
By definition, feminism is purely the belief in equality between men and women – nothing more, nothing less.
So, where exactly does feminism come into play when it comes to depression?
The short answer is – everywhere.
While research is still lacking, early studies indicate that women get the shit end of the stick when it comes to depression. Worldwide, women are two times more likely than men to have a depressive episode in their lifetime. And once that depression pops up, it hangs around much longer for women than it does for men.
Depression is gunning for the number one spot when it comes to global disability (that title is currently held by low back pain, but not for long).
As expected, women are screwed here too.
Women are more likely to be disabled by a mental illness than men, drastically effecting every facet of their lives including career and long-term earning potential.
Why are women more depressed than men?
Evidence points towards factors that are also, unsurprisingly, impacted by sexism.
- gender-based violence,
- socioeconomic disadvantage,
- low income,
- income inequality,
- subordinate social status and oppression,
- increased burden of care for loved ones (including parents, partners, and children)
I don’t know about you, but this blew my mind.
The arenas in which women have been fighting for equality for decades (sexual assault, equal pay, equality in child-rearing, etc.) are the same exact issues that increase our chances of being depressed!
Clearly, depression is a feminist issue.
So logically, one would think – improve equality for women, and reduce depression in women.
According to the World Health Organization, this goes even further: reducing depression in
women, significantly reduces the global burden of disability caused by psychological disorders.
It’s a no-brainer, right?
Then why is it so goddamn difficult to equalize the prevalence of depression between men and women?
All leads point to gender bias in diagnosis and treatment.
While women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, they are less likely than men to go to or be referred to specialists (i.e. psychiatrists) for treatment. Instead, they often disclose their emotional issues to their primary doctor who may not have the special training to properly treat psychiatric disorders.
Additionally, women are more likely than men to be given mood altering psychotropic drugs, which may be given in place of proper medical care.
Unfortunately, this is even worse for women in developing countries. Authoritarian relationships between women and medical workers, means psychological or emotional problems are often ignored or under-treated.
Thankfully, there is a silver lining when it comes to depression and women.
For one, women often have solid friendships and significant social support which can be protective against mental illness and suicide. Additionally, it is generally more accepted for women to display emotion and ask for help for psychological disorders, although this varies across groups and cultures.
What’s even better is that we have people in our corner.
There are tons of smart women and men on the case, looking for ways to bring equality to the mental health space in arenas ranging from prevalence and prevention, to diagnosis and treatment.
Seriously, even the World Health Organization (WHO) is making it a priority.
And, if psychotherapy has taught me anything, it’s that identification and acceptance of a problem is the first and most important step in healing.