Depression is a “whole-body” illness, involving your body, mood, and thoughts that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.
Depression can be mild to moderate with symptoms of low mood and aversion to activity, little appetite, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, and low-grade fatigue. Or it can be more severe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the depression is 50% higher for females than males.
The World Mental Health Report adds that depression is two to three times more common in women.
According to the WHO, Indians are among the world’s most depressed.
There are several factors which could be affecting her mental health.
- Adolescence, when roles and expectations change dramatically. The stress of adolescence include forming an identity, confronting sexuality, separating from parents, and making decisions for the first time, along with other physical and hormonal changes may be associated more often with depression in females.
- Women’s reproductive events include the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the post-pregnancy period, infertility, menopause, and sometimes, the decision not to have children. These events bring hormonal changes. The menstruation is also a form of physical stress and thus plays a role in depression in women. Hormones have an effect on brain chemistry. Changes in emotions and mood often result.
- Women in India can be attributed to many cultural norms. Societal forces of patriarchy, hierarchy and multi-generational families contribute to Indian women roles.Women are also seen as less valuable to a family due to marriage obligations. Although illegal, Indian cultural norms often force payment of a dowry to the husband’s family. Gender inequalities, in turn, are directly related to poor health outcomes for women.
- Some experts have suggested that the traditional upbringing of girls may be a factor in the higher rate of depression in women. The health of Indian women is intrinsically linked to their status in society. The contributions Indian women make to families often are overlooked, and instead they are viewed as economic burdens. There is a strong son preference in India, as sons are expected to care for parents as they age. This son preference, along with high dowry costs for daughters, sometimes results in the mistreatment of daughters.They typically have little autonomy, living under the control of first their fathers, then their husbands, and finally their sons.
India is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of gender inequality. The high level of gender inequality in India negatively impacts the health of women.
- Coercion by family members is not ‘Care’. Compulsion is not ‘Love’. These are tools used to control a woman’s actions and movements, and eventually her entire life. And where coercion doesn’t work, guilt often does.Societies and families use guilt as a tool to control women – guilt associated with breaking families, guilt about not honoring wishes of parents, guilt about not being a sacrificing partner.Guilt is toxic for women.
- Brides are the newest addition to the list of things that can honor or bring shame to a family. A new bride’s behavior, speech, clothing and even laughter is closely watched upon by the elders in the family.A “well-behaved” young woman is the best presentation a family can make in the society.This, once again, is a way to push young women into fitting into the idea of an “ideal” young woman and to meet the expectations of the family and the society. Once again, women are expected to give up their individuality.
women are the person who had to adjust at every step to make the things go on working smoothly. It is possible that these are both factors in the greater prevalence of depression in women.
- Women (and girls) are much more likely than men to be physically or sexually harassed/abused. A woman who is the victim of any type of abuse is more prone to depression such as physical abuse, sexual harassment and mental abuse, also may experience higher rates of depression. Abuse may lead to depression by low self-esteem, a sense of helplessness, self-blame, and social isolation.
- Studies show that poverty is one of the “pathways to depression.” Low economic status brings with it many stresses.Sadness and low morale are more common among persons with low incomes and those lacking social supports. But research has not yet established whether depression is more prevalent among these. One very large study has shown that depression tends to equally affect the poor and the rich
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in women in India. While we cannot change the country or the statistics right now, we can look out for the signs of depression in women, and then help them speak out or talk to someone.
We can also talk about depression, spread awareness and reduce the social stigma around getting help for mental health problems.
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