Women and Mental Illness

In class today, I brought up the dichotomy of two forms of protection utilized by the women in Morrison’s works- those with mental walls, and those wielding physical weapons. It seems to be the case that the “strong Woman”, even Hillary Clinton, has been subject to adjectives like cold, and crazy. Those who have put up these psychological walls are looked upon poorly, the feminist movement taking the brunt of this blame. On the opposite side is those who choose to wield weapons like knives, guns, and pepper spray to protect themselves. This takes little to no blame (aside from gun control advocation as a whole) as people understand women to be physically disadvantaged, and in need of such protection. And so it follows, that society thinks that women do not need to protect their minds and autonomy, and become defensive of their right to exist mentally equal to men; but they should protect their physical vulnerability. And this could easily carry into a discussion of rape and the vile concept of women “asking for it” based on clothing choice, but that is a lengthy and heated discussion for a different post. I found this interesting because it is 2016, and women still need to put up these walls, to carry these weapons; if society has not grown past the gender inequality that transcends race, religion, nationality, etc, how can it hope to make it past the plethora of other instances of inequality as well?

In addition to this, I found an article discussing the differences in the instances of mental illness in men and women, written by Jason and Daniel Freemen. They cite the Center for Disease Control in stating that women are far more likely to suffer from illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and insomnia than men. Whereas their male counterparts more often suffer from alcoholism, violent tendencies, and anti-social personality disorder, which are markedly more prone to displays of their issues. They cite stigma (like that of the “crazy woman” persona), lower pay, higher body expectations, and difference in home life responsibilities as reasons why women may tend to keep their illnesses to themselves, whereas men may have more freedom to express themselves without as great a cause for worry. Think about it, what sounds more like an illness: Alcoholism, or Bipolar Depression? Each is a serious mental illness that requires extensive treatment, but one carries more of a “sickness” label than the other. This is not to say that men can’t have depression and women can’t be alcoholics, but the instance of each illness is more prone to the opposite gender.

In a research study by the US National Library of Medicine, Medical professionals discuss specifically African American Women’s beliefs concerning mental health, it stated that “They believed that an individual develops depression due to having a “weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love.” These women also identified stigma as a significant barrier to seeking mental health services.” This attitude is a learned behavior, meaning that it is likely rooted in cultural beliefs and child-rearing practices, which have taught much of the African-American population, like all women but African American women specifically here, that the only way to survive in a world that they are born into pre-stigmatized, is to build walls and remain strong, even when in truth they should be seeking help. And such is the ultimate stigma to mental health, regardless of gender or race- people are terrified that once they allow themselves to be labelled ill, they become less of a person. And this is an especially painful concept to Women around the world, and the African American community, and by no means should be this way. Mental illness deserves recognition and kindness, just like any other physical illness. Its like considering someone to be less than who they are, just because they have fought and survived cancer.

 

~Here are some articles discussing mental illness, women, and stigma:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/10/19/the-stigma-of-mental-illness-and-women-s-health.html

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

~This last one addresses specifically African American Women’s views on mental health:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854624/

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