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Connection Between Gender and Mental Health

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Words: 1951 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

Words: 1951|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

Despite being a common term in today’s society, mental illness is still underdiagnosed by physicians. It is projected that less than half of the individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for psychological conditions are actually being accurately diagnosed by physicians. The reason for this statistic is first misdiagnoses by a physician and also the lack of motivation to seek help in the first place. The World Health Organization estimates that only 2 in every 5 experiencing symptoms of a psychological disorder will actually seek help within the first year of the onset of the problems.

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It would be surprising to many to know that when comparing the overall rates of mental illness, the comparison between men and women are very similar. The differences are found in the patterns of mental illness experienced by men versus those same experiences experienced in women (Bower, 2017). This paper will aim to inform readers as to why gender has such a grand impact on mental illness and what experinces those with mental illness are at a disposition to be involved in. We will explore why different genders are more likely to be diagnosed with certain conditions. We also will explore the impact specific conditions have on a person’s likelihood to seek help due to their identified gender.

Gender differences exist in patterns of help seeking for all psychological disorders. When looking at type of outpatient mental health service use, males were more likely to consult a primary care doctor and a mental health specialist as well, in the past year as opposed to females. However, females were more likely to consult a primary care physician only as opposed to not consulting a physician at all than males were. Gender specific differences that make males less likely to seek services include, lower adjusted household income, and for women included a younger age, the presence of social support, self-reported availability barriers, the presence of suicidal thoughts or attempt and a poorer self- perceived mental health.

The gender that an individual identifies with is a critical determinant of the amount of awareness and support an individual with a mental illness will receive. The negative connotations that are perceived with having a mental illness in general are substantially more targeted and publicized than the gender specific determents and mechanisms that are said to promote and protect mental health and create. The gender of an individual determines the perceived power and control men and women have over their condition.

Socioeconomic situations, position in the social scale, status in the community, access to treatment, and exposure to risk factors are all items that women and men face at different rates based off of their gender (World Health, 2014). Gender stereotypes regarding proneness to emotional problems in women and alcohol problems in men, appear to reinforce social stigma and constrain help seeking along stereotypical lines. They are a barrier to the accurate identification and treatment of psychological disorder. Despite these differences, most women and men experiencing emotional distress and or psychological disorder are neither identified or treated by their doctor unfortunately.

Let’s take a look at the statistics involving mental illness as a whole. In today’s society people as whole suffer at least one occurrence of depression or anxiety at some point throughout their lives. Abnormal is the new normal as only a small percentage of the world’s population between ages 11-38, are considered to be mentally healthy. John Schafer, a psychologist from Duke University states “For many, an episode of mental disorder is like influenza, bronchitis, kidney stones, a broken bone or other (common) conditions, …Sufferers experience impaired functioning. Many seek medical care, but most recover.’ 

Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men (World Health, 2014). Leading mental health problems of the older adults are depression, organic brain syndromes and dementias, in which majority are women. There are an estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children, which is a precursor to development of a mental illness. Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50% depending on numerous contributing factors and at least 1 in 5 women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime (World Health, 2014).

Depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sexual violence, domestic violence and escalating rates of substance use affect women to a greater extent than men across different countries and different settings. Pressures created by their multiple roles, gender discrimination and associated factors of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, overwork, domestic violence and sexual abuse, combine to account for women’s poor mental health (World Health, 2014). There is a positive relationship between the frequency and severity of such social factors and the frequency and severity of mental health problems in women. Severe life events that cause a sense of loss, inferiority, humiliation can foreshadow depression, which we know to be one of the highest diagnosed conditions for women.

Many times, I believe that we in America forget that there are others in other countries whoa are experiencing these same struggles, mainly due to our westernized point of view. It is recorded that as much as 20% of those attending primary health care in developing countries suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders. In most centers, these patients are not recognized and therefore not treated. Communication between health workers and women patients is extremely authoritarian in many countries, making a woman’s disclosure of psychological and emotional distress difficult, and often stigmatized. When women dare to disclose their problems, many health workers tend to have gender biases which lead them to falsely diagnose or treat them.

Depression as a whole is a common mental health problem among women but is believed to be more impactful in woman as well. When the word depression is stated it is likely the image a person gather’s in their head is of a woman. This schema that is generated by your brain is a result of the overrepresentation of women with depression by the media. This overrepresentation of having depression as a female has done two things in the eyes of the population.

First off, women are diagnosed instantly when experiencing what appear to be depression symptoms, without much understanding of the true problem and men are not seeking help when they are believed to have depression, in an attempt to keep from being viewed as less manly. Reducing this overrepresentation of women will contribute in a significant manner toward the betterment of society, but first we must first understand the factors that contribute to gender stereotypes in mental illness and how to overcome these hurdles if we want to see a permanent change for the better.

The life after being diagnosed with a mental illness is often as difficult and shameful one due to the societal stigma about having the condition. For starters, mentally ill women are often sexually exploited. Due to contributing factors, many women cannot receive access to proper care and treatment for their mental illness. The lack of resources and stigma revolving those who need aid, leave women with very little options. Homelessness and mental illness are hand in hand with one another as both situations are contributing factors to onset of the other. In a large majority of reported cases, women with mental illness are found to be sexually exploited in return for access to their basic needs.

Several studies indicate that pathways to homelessness for differ based on gender. For example, homeless women are more likely to be victims of violence compared to men and more likely to report family disruption or dysfunction while men are more likely to report loss of a job, mental illness, and substance use problems as precursors to homelessness. The article by Clark, 2003, highlighted that homeless populations are diverse in ethnicity, gender and pathways to homelessness alongside mental illnesses, are diverse and difficult to transparently map out.

Obviously not everyone with a mental illness is going to be lead to a path of violence or homelessness, but even people with proper access to care and who actively attempt to combat their condition still have struggles in everyday life do to their condition. I’m certain that everyone at least knows someone who struggles to find a significant other or oden has difficulties maintaining a healthy relationship with their significant other, many of which do live with a mental illness. It is no surprise that having a mental illness was reported to reduce chances of marriage for both men and women due to multiple factors.

The main factors that contribute to this perceived dangerousness of individuals with a mental illness, mental health stigma, and the long-term nature of the illness in relation to those without a mental illness (Hailemariam, 2019). It is no secret that people who suffer from mental illness have generally narrower social circles, which often do not extend beyond family and close friendships. Stigma was mentioned as the primary limiting factor for social interaction of individuals with a mental illness.

The following comment was provided about friendships with those who experience mental illness (Clark, 2003), ‘People in the community don’t make friends with them (people with mental illness). They are usually lonely. No one wants to be with them. People are afraid to marry them. They will face problems until they recover and become healthy again’. Another participant gave their take on marriage for those with mental illness as, “There are many things people want to know before allowing marriage, even for couples without mental illness. Society wants to know about who he or she is, his or her ethnic group, who his or her parents are. It is a very big challenge. It is worse for a mentally ill person to marry in this society.”

On a more positive note, there are some instances where support for those with mental illness in the public can be viewed. In most cases, when women with mental illness find themselves in legal trouble, some aid is able to be given based on their condition. Based upon therapeutic justice principles, mental health courts use legal leverage to improve access and compliance to treatment for defendants who are mentally ill. Justice-involved women have a higher prevalence of mental illness than men, and it plays a greater role in their criminal behavior. Despite this, studies examining whether women respond differently than men to mental health courts are lacking and would be fairly beneficial to future proceedings for thorough examination of this concept to take place.

In conclusion, mental illness affects us all in different ways and gender plays a role in the specific ways we as individuals may be subjected to it. If there is one take away from these findings it is that we as a society have to do better in diagnosing, treating, and presenting mental illness in a better light for our future generations. We need to educate ourselves on what can be done to ensure that those after us can adequately receive treatment and attempt to live a quality life without being labeled based off a chemical imbalance they have little to no control over.

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The two largest factors that will aid in making a shift in the mindset of mental illness in my opinion, are ones that we each can easily implement are as follows. First off provide support to your loved one and actively listen to what they share with you so they feel valued. Secondly, openly provide physical resources, such as pamphlets or business cards, or phone numbers to increase the possibility of an individual to have access to aid if they choose to pursue it. In conclusion, mental illness affects us all in different ways and gender plays a role in those ways.                

Works Cited:

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  3. Erikson Institute. (n.d.). Erik Erikson. https://www.erikson.edu/about/erikson/
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  5. Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle: Selected papers. W. W. Norton & Company.
  6. Erikson, E. H. (1994). The life cycle completed (extended version). W. W. Norton & Company.
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  8. Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3(5), 551-558.
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  10. Waterman, A. S. (1982). Identity development from adolescence to adulthood: An extension of theory and a review of research. Developmental psychology, 18(3), 341-358.
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Connection Between Gender and Mental Health. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-impact-of-gender-on-mental-illness/
“Connection Between Gender and Mental Health.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-impact-of-gender-on-mental-illness/
Connection Between Gender and Mental Health. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-impact-of-gender-on-mental-illness/> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
Connection Between Gender and Mental Health [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-impact-of-gender-on-mental-illness/
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