It’s International Women’s Day!

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oday is International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate women, the advancements that we have made towards gender parity, and a reminder of the work that we still have to do. This day has held a special place in my heart for quite some time, probably since my first year university Women’s Studies class.  I remember sitting in that lecture hall, listening to the professor articulating so many of the thoughts and feelings about injustice and gender inequity that I had experienced firsthand, but had not been able to express. I felt so inspired, empowered, connected and motivated to be a part of a movement of change.  I wanted to talk with my mom and her friends about the 2nd wave of feminism, about Gloria Steinem, and about the activism that she had participated in, in her youth.  I felt so proud to be a woman, and started to seek out rallies and marches that I could attend; I went to the statues of The Famous Five on parliament hill and thought about what it would have been like to not be allowed to vote!  I talked feminism with everyone I came across, after all I was a part of the 3rd wave, and I wanted to leave my mark!

Today, this passion remains a large part of who I am and contributes to the lens through which I see the world, the values I try to instill in my children (can you believe my son was almost born on International Women’s Day?!), and how I view my work as a social worker and clinical therapist.  Over the years, I have come to understand the huge impact gender has on an individual’s mental health, and this has, and continues to, shape the work that I do.

Gender is an important factor in an individual’s mental health and wellness so I have found some interesting statistics to share with you guys. The World Health Organization reports that unipolar depression is twice as common in women than men and women continue to be exposed to more risks factors contributing to mental illnesses than men. Some of these risk factors include the following:

  • Gender based violence
  • Socioeconomic disadvantages
  • Income inequality
  • Responsibility to care for others with little respite
  • Subordinate social status

 It is so important for us to collectively recognize this inequality, and work towards change.  I believe that simply holding an awareness of the role that our society and political structures play in our mental health will encourage us to keep the conversation going and in turn, create positive changes.  So what does this mean on an individual level?  Well, I believe that we need to assess the ways that gender and mental wellness intersect within our own lives. Here are some questions to get you thinking:

Do I, or people around me, have expectations of me based on my gender?

Am I hesitant to act, behave, dress or speak a certain way because of societal gender norms?

Do I avoid asking for help, or take care of myself, because I believe others should come first?

What can I do today to take better care of myself and contribute to my overall mental wellness?

These questions are only a start and by no means cover the complexities of all the issues that can affect us.  Start talking about gender and mental health with people in your life, men and women. The Spark Institute wants to keep the conversation going so please do not hesitate to write us with your thoughts on the topic of gender and mental health, or to book a free consultation with a member of our team.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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