International Women's Day has come and gone - what do we know about women around the world?
What better time to briefly look at the life of a woman.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1000 women die every day due to complications in childbirth, 13% of women world wide die of HIV/AIDS related conditions and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women aged 20 – 44 years. They estimate 73 million women suffer from mild to severe depression.
Of these women 86% of them that live low income countries do not have access to mental health services.
These are numbers we do know. There are most likely countless numbers of women who go unseen and unheard that are not included in this data.
Before we send armies of therapists all over the world, there is one thing to consider, that mental health is intrinsically tied to physical health. Systemic responses to the social, cultural and economic crises of women will ease they psychological and spiritual suffering of women.
The WHO recommended the following actions that can be taken to help women around the world no matter their socioeconomic status.
Improving nutrition – Feeding families will help prevent the psychological and physical stress of malnutrition
Improving housing – Living in warm and safe housing will allow women and families to feel safe and free from worry about cold nights and crime
Improving access to education – Better education helps increase cognition, emotional and intellectual abilities and will increase job prospects. All of these will help to reduce the consequences of social inequity, such as depression and stress.
Reduce economic insecurity – Increasing the economic empowerment of women will help give them the resources to take care of their health, nutrition and education. Being able to care for your own well being can be the first step to ease psychological stress, anxiety and depression.
Strengthening community networks – Creating and supporting community based programs to develop protective services for women and families. These can help reduce community violence and provide the needed social support for individuals and families in time of emotional and financial need.
Reducing the Harm from addictive substances – Challenging the lax laws and regulations that are still in existence many developing countries will help reduce the number of alcohol related illness, injuries and deaths.
These are on the macro level of social change but on a much larger/global scale it would be good to add to this list, advocating for the end wars. War has a devastating impact on the lives of millions of women and girls. War exacerbates the ills listed above and has traumatized generations.
Working towards changes all of the elements of the society that women live in would be healing for millions. Ending war, eliminating poverty, strengthening communities, championing non-violence and improving education would be the sort of mental health treatment that could transform the lives of women and maybe even the world.
-- Makenna Berry