Problematic stigmas prevail in mental illness whether you are male or female. As a woman with bipolar, I can attest that the stigma is real and it is harsh. I learned early on to hide my disorder. Otherwise, I would be labeled as “crazy” or “incapable” or just not taken seriously at all. How does society judge men who have mental illness?
Mental illnesses affect women differently than men.
- Gender specific risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank and responsibility for the care of others.
- Unipolar depression is twice as common in women as it is in men
- Substance use disorders are twice as high in men as they are in women
- Men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders than women (psychopaths and sociopaths)
- There are no marked differences in prevalence of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar between the genders
- Disability from mental illness falls most heavily on those who experience three or more comorbid disorders. Here, women predominate.
- Women are roughly three times more likely to attempt suicide, though men are two to four times more likely to die from suicide. Women show a much higher rate of suicidal thinking, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide attempts.
- The high prevalence of sexual violence to which women are exposed and the high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following such violence, renders women the largest single group of people affected by this disorder.
- Women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness and depression. Men are more likely to externalize emotions, which leads to aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior
Gender stereotypes (i.e. women have more emotional problems and men have more substance use problems) reinforce social stigma and constrain help seeking along stereotypical lines.
So not only is it society that judges you for your mental issues. Doctors do too.
Let’s talk about social stigma. Is it not true that a man with a drinking problem can be written off as a “beer aficionado” or a “wine collector”? While a woman with a drinking problem is harshly judged as immoral, a lush or a drunk. As my mother taught me, a lady does not get drunk.
How about a woman suffering from depression? Is she not labeled as being “lazy” or a “drama queen” or a “bad mother”? Yet if a man with depression can’t get to work because he can’t get out of bed…send him straight to the mental hospital! Put him on suicide watch!
I’m not saying there are no stigmas of men who fight mental illness. For one thing, men are much less likely to seek medical treatment for fear of appearing weak.
In my opinion, men are taken much more seriously when they do seek help and are also not judged as harshly as women.
Women are more likely to attempt suicide but not die. Society says: she was just seeking attention. But this isn’t true. Men die more from suicide because they tend to choose more violent, lethal methods such a firearms, jumping, and hanging. Women usually choose to attempt suicide by overdosing on pills.
Stigma prevents men from seeking help because they don’t want to be “weak” or “sissies”. Women with children face fears of being branded as an unstable or unfit mother leading many women to hide their mental health problems. While men fear shame, women fear blame.
I do not like to play the victim. I am white, educated and middle class. But….we women still have a long way to go in terms of equality.
We have to deal with periods, PMS, taking birth control (can’t trust a man with that, sorry guys), then we carry babies for ten (not nine) months, give birth, breastfeed, and do (usually) the majority of the child raising.
Oh and we have to work full time throughout all of this, cook, clean, help with homework, run errands while hubby (if you even have one) watches football. If I sound bitter, I am. Guilty!
I can hear Super Mom out there saying “yes but we, as mothers, get to have that bond with our children”. True, until about age 13 when they decide that they hate you and they suddenly prefer their dad. I’ll say to my 15 year old son “don’t you remember that trip we took or that time we went camping or how I used to take you to the gun range every weekend?” Nope! All of that time and nurturing….and he doesn’t remember. But he remembers the one time his dad took him to the zoo.
Back to my point; as women we already have so much more “stuff” going on than men. AND, we end up having the majority of mental health problems. And negative stigmas to fight.
I have never burned my bra. I am pro-life. But I am a feminist. Not all feminists are cut from the same cloth. I believe we women deserve to be treated as equals. Maybe men can’t give birth. But they damned well put in 51% of the child raising! And some do. Fabulous. But too many don’t.
The workplace? Medical insurance? They have quite a ways to go for women. I don’t care if it’s the government or my employer who pays for it but I want 4-6 months PAID maternity leave for moms. I want mandatory flexible schedules and workplaces for moms. And (this maybe the only time you hear this Libertarian say this) this needs to be a law!
You think corporate America is going to just offer this? Maybe if you work for a large progressive company. All of the rest of us are racing to daycare at 6:30am, grinding out 9 hours of pressure-filled work, collecting our paycheck which is 70% of a man’s, racing back to daycare ti home to start Job #2 also known as Mom Duty. Dinner, dishes, homework, baths, bedtime…while hubby watches football. No wonder we’ve got mental illnesses, people!!!
What can we do? I’m good at asking questions but not so good with solutions. What do you think? Please let me know. I know you’ve got an opinion!