The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’. This centres around choosing to speak out when we see gender inequality or bias. Sadly, mental health is not a field that is immune from the impact of gender inequality and bias.
Over the last year, women and girls have experienced unique challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Research has shown the negative impact on our mental health due to returning to school, social media, caring responsibilities and restrictions in place around maternity services and health services more generally. Depression and anxiety rates are higher in adolescent girls than in their male counterparts. Eating disorders are also significantly higher amongst females and the number of people seeking support has risen at alarming rates. Gender-based violence is also on the rise. The economic impacts are often more heavily felt by women who typically will earn less than their male counterparts because of existing gender inequality.
On the Island, we have just entered lockdown number 3 (which is not something I ever thought would happen) and because of the factors mentioned above, this is certainly going to be a difficult time for everyone, but especially women. So how can we take care of ourselves, or help support the women we care about?
- Getting outdoors and being active. As we enter Spring, the weather should start to improve which makes getting outside easier. It’s important, regardless of a lockdown, to try and get outside and exercise once a day, even if it’s just a quick walk. Organise online workouts with friends or set each other challenges.
- Learn something new. This might be as simple as reading a book, or even trying a new hobby.
- Stay present. This can be difficult when we’re worrying about what’s next – but sometimes we forget that now used to be next. Try things like journaling, mindfulness or grounding exercises to help.
- Give. It might be as simple as baking a cake for your mum, helping a neighbour with their shopping, or surprising a friend with a gift delivery. Even just doing chores around the house makes a huge difference.
- Connect. Check in with your friends and family, give them a call or schedule a (virtual) catch up with them. You can even get into writing letters!
This International Women’s Day, we can all help just by speaking up and challenging the inequalities that exist in society. This is also true for mental health and wellbeing – only by talking about our mental health and wellbeing can we remove the stigma that surrounds it. By acknowledging that we are human and we do make mistakes, it means we can build mental health services that ensure equitable access for all. Make sure you check in with yourself and the women that you love and speak out if you are struggling and need support.