September is Women in Medicine month, its purpose is to highlight the accomplishments of women physicians as well as bringing attention to health issues impacting women patients. I would like to focus on the latter, and discuss an issue which I have become increasingly passionate about.
I believe we need to raise our voices and talk about mental health. Yes, in the past few years there has been an increase in awareness with regards to mental health, but does it go far enough? Absolutely not.
Mental health is defined as a state of well being, yet one in four of us will be affected by a mental health issue at some point in our lives. This doesn’t have to be lifelong, it can be periodic, but regardless we need to change this statistic. We need to talk more about mental health to help those who are affected and ensure that those around us are able to recognise if something is wrong.
When one of us feels different in ourselves over a prolonged period, confused by our emotions, and how we feel as a result it is very unlikely that we will speak out about it. Perhaps you’ll mention it to a close friend, a sibling but more often than not shortly after describing how you feel you’ll go on to justify these emotions by claiming ‘but I’m sure it’s just a phase’. I believe this is where the problem lies. A lack of awareness means that we do award our mental health the same level of importance as we do to our physical health.
If we have a cough for longer than a few weeks we stop, we notice it, and we address it by asking for medical help. So why should we not do the same when it comes to our mental health? Part of this could be down to the stigma around mental health, a fear of the unknown, of what is not openly visible, but only we can overcome this.
As women, we face innumerable pressures on a daily basis, we tend to multitask and take on more than what we can sometimes bear. Women generally speaking, have a tendency of ‘getting on with things’ we don’t like to complain much and most of us like to portray the image of someone who is very much in control. I feel this attitude leads us women to become more vulnerable to mental health disorders such as anxiety, and depression as recognised by the World Health Organisation.
However, I want to emphasise upon the fact that we cannot always be ‘perfect’, irrespective of our gender. It should be the norm for us to acknowledge this regularly and talk freely about our mental health, in the same way that we do with regards to our physical health.
I came across a quote recently that read “The only thing more exhausting than having a mental health illness is pretending you don’t have one”. So please, speak out about it, get the help that you need, it is up to us to break the stereotype surrounding mental health and increase awareness surrounding it. If you think you’re mental health may be affected and you’d like to get to know more about it, then you can visit the following website.