Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finding Balance Includes Mental Health

When many people think about finding balance in their lives, it includes such things as balancing work and family, responsibilities and a social life, physical health and spirituality. What is missing from this equation is the balancing of one's mental health. There has been a long trend over the course of the history of psychiatric medicine of ignoring the importance of maintaining and preserving a person's mental well-being. Still today, many people deny the effectiveness and validity of mental health therapies like psychological counseling and group therapy.

The Office of Women's Health, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently released a report called Women's Mental Health: What it means to you. This research booklet, released in 2009, stressing the importance and urgency that is needed to start focusing on women's mental health. While the booklet is not a supplement for a doctor, it opens up the conversation for women to start discussing the topic of mental health and how it affects them. A conversation that has been silent for too many decades.

Mental illnesses affect women and men differently, such as some disorders are more common in women and some express themselves with different symptoms. By opening up this dialogue about women's mental health between medical professionals and between women themselves, the medical and female communities can get a better understanding of how mental health affects women and how it can be treated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society for Women's Health Research:
  • 1 in 2 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder each year
  • Women are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from depression and stress disorders than men
  • Women are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men (8th leading killer of women)
  • 85-95% of people with anorexia or bulimia are female; 65% of binge eaters are women
Personally, I am someone who has seen the effects of mental health illness and the great results that can come from many psychological treatments like counseling and group therapy. Group therapy is a great tool for women who suffer from even the mildest mental conditions to share their experiences, learn from others, and to create a safe environment to discuss a topic that is very personal by affects the majority of the population. This theme of creating community through story telling is not only a central tool to mental health therapy, but is also a key component to the feminist experience.

If you have questions about mental health or are in search of more treatment information, here are some good sites to get information:
National Institute of Mental Health
National Women's Health Information Center

Take care and be happy and healthy: physically, spiritually, and mentally.


Therapy Expert said...

Hi Sarah,
I read your article and wanted to add:
I am a psychotherapist working both professionally and privately. On average I see far more women than men. My own opinion of this is that women are more likely to openly express their feelings; this seems to be socially more acceptable within the female community.

Thank you
Dawn Pugh

Sarah H. said...

Hi Dawn,
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time out to read my post and share your expertise and opinions. I agree with you 100% that it seems to be more socially acceptable for women to be more open with their feelings. But, I still feel that there is an overall social stigma with mental health in general. Hopefully with mental health being more accepted by the female community, this social trend can change and help to improve everyone's overall well-being.