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Empowering women to advocate for their own mental health on International Women's Day

March 4, 2024
Kiera Benson

One in four people experience some kind of mental health issue each year in England, and the majority of them are women. Women are three times more likely to experience a mental health issue than men and 26% of 16-24 year old women deal with a mental health issue in any given week.

These numbers are even higher amongst ethnic minority groups. One study found that 29% of British Black women and women who identify as Mixed/Other, and 24% of Asian women have experienced a common mental health issue.

These figures tell us that mental health issues aren’t unusual amongst women, and yet, many women don’t feel able to talk about their struggles. A recent survey found that 42% of women wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to a family member, 36% to a healthcare professional and 30% to a friend about their mental health.

Talking about our mental health is important for lots of reasons. Firstly, there’s a good feeling that comes from getting something out into the open and being listened to. It can help us to feel heard and gives us the opportunity to work through our thoughts and emotions. When we’re vulnerable with others, this invites them to share with us, which can strengthen the relationship and helps both people to feel less alone.

Opening up about our mental health struggles also helps to normalise them. The more that people talk about mental health and spread awareness, the less stigma there is, as people realise that many mental health issues are actually quite common and nothing to be ashamed of.

The 8th March is International Women’s Day, a day which celebrates the achievements of women, while acknowledging the challenges that they face globally. Mental health should be part of this conversation. Women need to feel able to advocate for themselves, which involves accessing the right information, learning how to manage their mental health and feeling comfortable enough to talk about their feelings.

Staying silent and ignoring the mental health conversation will only hold us back, whereas the more that we learn and understand about mental health, the more empowered we are to take control of our lives and thrive. So, let’s get involved! These tips are for anyone that needs help advocating for or managing their mental health.

  1. Break the silence  

Remember, it’s okay not to be okay - and it’s okay to talk about it. Talking isn’t always easy, but it is important. The more that we talk about mental health, the more normal it will become to open up about our emotions, for us and for others.

When you’re ready to be vulnerable and tell someone how you’re feeling, it’s important to choose someone that you can trust. For example, a close family member who’s always been there for you, or a friend who has been through something similar and will understand your feelings.

Not all of us have people in our lives that we can turn to, which can make us feel lonely, especially in times where we need to talk. Remember, if you’re struggling, the Samaritans listening service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123.

  1. Knowledge is power

The more we know about mental health, the more equipped we are to take care of our own. It can be helpful to learn about the symptoms of mental health disorders - you can find information on a whole spectrum of conditions on Mind’s website and ieso’s website. It’s also important that we know how to protect our mental wellbeing, which involves investing in self-care and setting boundaries.

  1. Understand your triggers

A ‘trigger’ describes something that sets off an emotional response in your body. This response can be powerful – for instance a particular trigger could lead to a panic attack for someone who has anxiety. Triggers can involve any of the senses, such as a sound, sight or smell, or a combination of more than one.

Sometimes it’s obvious what’s triggered a reaction, but triggers can also be subtle. You might feel your body reacting, for example a racing heart or trembling hands, but not know why it’s happening. Gaining a good understanding of your triggers can help you to manage them. Learn more about triggers here.

  1. Seek support

If you are struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out and get help. It’s a good idea to speak to a professional sooner rather than later, as mental illnesses can get worse as time goes on. Make an appointment with your GP who will be able to assess you and explain which treatment options are available, which may include talking therapy.

At ieso, we offer typed Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which means that patients can login from wherever they are and ‘speak’ with a therapist privately by typing back and forth. It's just as effective as face-to-face CBT, plus it’s more flexible. You can get started here.

It’s worth mentioning that some communities find it more difficult to access effective mental healthcare. Black women are more likely to experience a mental health disorder than white women and less likely to get help. There’s different reasons for this, but many women report being let down by the mental health system. If you’re a black woman seeking support, Black Minds Matter and Forward UK are two charities who offer culturally sensitive services.

  1. Celebrate the wins

When you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s easy to forget to celebrate your wins. Any accomplishment, no matter how small, deserves to be celebrated and acknowledging our progress can give us the boost that we need to keep going.

Perhaps you’ve set a boundary for the first time, or maybe you stuck to your plans even though you were struggling. Remember that everyone’s version of progress is different, so when you feel that you’ve achieved something, it’s important to congratulate yourself as this can help to boost your self-esteem and confidence.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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