Good mental health is a key component to overall health and wellbeing.
While on the upper end of the scale more men commit suicide, it is the female population that experience a higher frequency of depression and anxiety.
Up to 1 in 5 women in Australia will suffer from a depressive episode and even more (up to 1 in 3) will suffer from anxiety during their lifetime.
Depression & anxiety can hit at any time, but is most frequent during pregnancy and the following weeks and months after the birth of a baby. One in ten pregnant women will suffer depression during pregnancy and one in seven in the year after giving birth.
Anxiety is as common during pregnancy with some women suffering a combination of anxiety and depression at the same time.
As well as major life events like motherhood & menopause that can trigger major stresses for women, other negative factors such as domestic violence, poverty, unemployment and isolation are triggers that can lead to anxiety and depression.
Women bear a large proportion of the responsibility to care for family members who are unwell or unable to look after themselves. Women are much more likely to shoulder the responsibility of caring for someone with a disability. Putting everyone else ahead of yourself can often lead to detrimental effects on a woman’s physical and mental wellness.
Following separation, divorce or being widowed, women are more likely to suffer depression or anxiety. Asking for help or talking to friends about how you are feeling is an important first step in addressing mental health issues.
Experiencing physical violence, emotional or sexual abuse will almost always have harmful effects on your mental wellbeing. These traumatic events often lead to depression or anxiety and often drug and alcohol abuse. It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for the abusive actions of others, even if it someone you know, love & trust.
If you are in danger of, or are regularly subjected to any form of abuse, then you need to seek help and resolve the cause that is having an impact on your mental wellbeing.
Women are also more likely to suffer eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia which are a symptom of underlying mental health issues and share many of the risks associated with depression. Women who manifest eating disorders are much more likely to experience depression and anxiety at some point in their life.
Same sex attraction research in Australia has shown that lesbian & bisexual women experience a higher frequency of depression and are in more danger of self harm or suicide than heterosexual women. This could be due to lack of acceptance, bullying, discrimination and not having the support of immediate family and the surrounding community.
Postnatal depression is extremely common. Up to 16% of women in Australia are diagnosed with perinatal depression in the first year of motherhood.
Adjusting to this major life change, coupled with the stresses that come with a new baby such as disrupted sleep patterns, feeding problems, demanding infants and so on can make women more likely to suffer a depressive episode especially if they have suffered anxiety or depression in the past.
On the other end of the scale, women experiencing natural or surgically induced menopause are at greater risk of depression. While the hormone changes associated with menopause do not cause depression, most women will experience mood swings and irritability which may leave them susceptible to the onset of anxiety or depression.
What can you do ?
Reach out to a family member, friend or co-worker.
The first step is to start letting someone you trust know that you are in a bit of strife. Unloading and getting things off your chest and knowing that other people are aware that you aren’t ok can go a long way to lightening the load and improving how you are feeling.
Just let them know about your feelings, or how you’re sad or low the whole time for no reason or you just can’t be bothered with the things you used to enjoy.
If you are not comfortable with family or a friend then you can talk to someone at lifeline 13 11 14 or one of the services on our contact page. Alternatively ;
Talk to your GP
A GP is a great source of information and will be trained in recognising whether you have depression or anxiety. If you don’t have a regular GP, you need to find one. You can talk to them about how you are feeling and they will assess the type and scale of your illness and create a management plan.
They will most likely have various health professionals on hand or in their network that can help you get on track.
A Gp is an ideal person to help you create an action plan to combat and manage your depression or anxiety.
An action plan would typically contain things like writing down what you would like to do to make positive changes, exercise, sleep improvement, stress management and maybe working with a psychologist who can help you tackle negative thinking and how to deal with relationships
Making a safety plan:
If you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings, then working with someone you trust on a suicide safety plan is essential.
The plan will have a number of steps that you need to follow whenever you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. The plan will get you to a safe place.
Beyond Blue’s Beyond Now will help you create a safety plan.
For some women who are unable to improve their depression with other treatment plans, then medication is available. If your depression or anxiety is severe and not improving, then seek the help of a doctor who will be able to assist in prescribing medication where appropriate to manage your illness.
Alcohol & Drugs
Drinking Alcohol or taking drugs to try and make the anxiety or depression go away is not a good idea. These will almost always make the symptoms of depression and anxiety much worse over the long term.
Sometimes just unloading your feelings to a friend will make you feel a whole lot better.
If you have nobody you can talk to one of the mental health services listed on the contacts page.