In light of this week being National Women’s Health Week and Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health in women and its relationship to abuse. Cultivating strong mental health is critical for personal growth and maintaining physical well-being. It is also important to prioritize your mental health if you are healing from trauma and the after-effects of abuse.
Although men and women are equally disposed to develop mental health disorders, statistics show that, in fact, women experience more trauma than men as well as more intimate partner violence, rape, or sexual assault. They also are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking. All of these factors increase the incidence of anxiety, PTSD, complex PTSD, and other mental health issues women experience and which require special care and treatment to resolve. A large component of intimate partner violence is Covert Emotional Abuse, which is considered one of the most destructive forms of abuse. This form of psychological abuse harms the victim’s thinking, perceptions of reality, and, ultimately, sanity by causing severe self-doubt and for the victim to question their own reality, compromising the victim’s mental well-being.
Although it is not uncommon for women to experience these disorders, their signs should never be minimized or ignored. On the contrary, we encourage women of every age and life stage, along with their surrounding support systems, to regularly self-assess her mental health, paying special attention to the following symptoms:
- Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Excessive fear or worry
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Extremely high and low moods
- Aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal thoughts
If one or multiple of these symptoms recurs continually, please seek professional help or, bare minimum, reach out to a trustworthy loved one and tell them what is going on. Such issues could have developed as a result of being abused, undergoing other significant trauma, or from being under acute stress and might be wreaking havoc on your body and how you experience life. This is not something to be dismissed or of which to be ashamed. Mental health issues are not a sign of weakness but a sign of humanity, and that is something we never need to hide. Instead, we need to take regular stock of our own mental well-being and when it is compromised, we need to address it immediately.
Women do so much for others on a daily basis that sometimes they can neglect to take care of themselves. As first-responders, we can help to stop the cycles of domestic abuse by supporting the women in our lives, encouraging them to prioritize their personal physical, emotional and mental health. If you know someone suffering right now, reach out to them and let them know you are there for them in whatever way they might need. If you have a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, call them, especially during these challenging times. You could lend them a hand by researching the many counseling services that are currently being offered online and for free or low cost through your health insurance. Recommend that they get rest and take time for themselves.
The CDC provides a comprehensive fact sheet on mental health as well as information on women’s health. We have also included several resources in the footnote of this blog that we recommend reading to deepen your understanding and to equip you to educate others to pay attention to their mental state.
For those of you who are experiencing mental health issues, we encourage you to speak up and seek help. We at The M3ND Project celebrate you and applaud your efforts to be healthy! Let us know how we can come alongside you.