Let’s talk about women’s mental health

Image by National Women’s Council via https://www.nwci.ie/learn/article/notjustinyourhead_nwc_launches_new_social_media_campaign_on_young_womens_me

The Tokyo Olympics ended on Sunday, a great achievement to pull off in the midst of the pandemic. As always, they left a myriad of testimonials about the strength, resilience, and empathy that human beings are capable of. But without a doubt, my favorite moments were those that placed mental health at the center of the discussion.

Image by La Nación via https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/tokio-2020-los-juegos-de-la-salud-mental-y-la-salud-digital-nid02082021/

With only twenty-four years old, Simone Biles, for many the greatest gymnast of all time, gave a master class in mental health; similar to the one that Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam-winner, had already given a couple of months ago, when she refused to give interviews to the press and finally withdrew from the French Open, also alluding to mental health reasons (referring to the depression she has been suffering from since 2018).

Image by Williams & Hirakawa for Time Magazine — via https://time.com/6077128/naomi-osaka-essay-tokyo-olympics/

Simone and Naomi not only opened up the conversation to a topic that most people suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to it but in a world that systematically denies the inequality women face, they have both dared to model for us the self-compassion and self-validation we so desperately need to see.

The World Health Organization notes that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide[1], which at its extreme level can lead to suicide, the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds, and the cause of a person dying every forty seconds.

It is twice as frequent in women than men, between 10–15% of women in industrialized countries and between 20–40% of women in developing countries suffer from depression during pregnancy or postpartum[2]. These data are no longer surprising when viewed in relation to the gender-based violence faced by women in Mexico, which has worsened due to the pandemic. Nor when considering the enormous burden of unpaid care work that women carry[3], in addition to planning the grocery shopping, the weekly menu, paying the bills, buying the children’s clothes, organizing social gatherings, and taking the children to the doctor (cognitive burden); being in charge of the emotional needs of the whole family, calming crying children and mediating between those who fight (emotional burden); preparing, organizing, and anticipating everything, the emotional and the practical, that needs to be done to make things work in the family (mental burden) [4].

Something magical happens the moment a person transcends the taboo and dares to step into the vulnerable space to share the difficulties they are experiencing. You realize that there is no such thing as a personal problem and that there are many more women who are experiencing what you are. What is most comforting is the validation that comes from knowing that it’s not all in your head, that what you are feeling is real and that asking for help is not only valid but the only way to move forward. What is truly wonderful is to be able to take off the mask and stop pretending that everything is fine.

A few months ago I experienced that validation when I took off the mask and dared to talk about postpartum depression, and particularly, about the post-weaning depression I am currently experiencing. And little by little I saw more women daring to do so, telling me about their experiences, some openly and others privately.

There is no doubt, as women we need to talk more about the mental disorders we suffer from, and particularly those we experience when having and caring for our children. As a society, we need to create spaces for our women to share openly and without any stigma about how they feel, so they can stop living in solitude with the pain, sadness, confusion, and anxiety that they endure when they don’t know what is happening to them. But above all, we need such disorders to be addressed from a gender perspective.

At less than twenty-five years old, and unwittingly, Simone and Naomi are now the face of the first generation daring to confront a system that profits from pushing athletes to their limit, by choosing to talk openly about their emotions and by putting themselves first. As Naomi said, “it’s okay to not be okay.” Let’s normalize talking about mental health in our closest circles. We don’t know what life we may be saving.

Have you gone to the therapist yet? Don’t leave it for tomorrow.

#Saludmental #Depresión #Suicidio #JuegosOlímpicos #NaomiOsaka #SimoneBiles #cargamental #IgualdadDeGénero #Mujereseneltrabajo #Unproblemapersonal #autoconfianza #autoestima #vulnerabilidad #pedirayudaesdevalientes #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #depresiónposparto #depresiónpostdestete #postpartumdepression #postweaningdepression #depressionawareness #womensmentalhealth #saludmentaldelasmujeres #mentalload #emotionalload #cognitiveload #unpaidcarework #genderequality #selfesteem #selfconfidence #womenintheworkplace #apersonalproblem #suicide #Tokioolympics #Notjustinyourhead

[1] https://www.who.int/es/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

[2] https://www.paho.org/es/temas/salud-mental

[3] http://cedoc.inmujeres.gob.mx/documentos_download/100779.pdf

[4] https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210518-the-hidden-load-how-thinking-of-everything-holds-mums-back

Norma Cerros es abogada y Cónsul Honoraria de Suecia en Nuevo León y Coahuila. Es directora de Womerang, A.C., esposa de Daniel y mamá de Héctor, Ian y Óscar.