Women indeed have the capacity for greatness. Unfortunately they have been and still are a marginalised demographic of the population. This has a negative impact on their overall mental health. International Day of Action for Women’s Health takes place annually on the 29th of May 2019. It is an opportunity to think about what we need to change in order to ensure that women are happy and healthy. To this effect, SAFMH has compiled a press release. Read it here:
The 29th of May 2019 is International Day of Action for Women’s Health. This offers an opportunity to look back on the past, examine the present and consider what kind of a future we want for the women of South Africa. In a society that has for millennia been dominated by patriarchy, women’s rights have been ignored and overlooked. From the fact that the right to vote for all women was only first exercised in 1994, to the fact that up until the advent of democracy there were no legal mechanisms providing for equality in the workplace and in other spaces women have been prolifically and systemically discriminated against. The mental health of women is no different.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (2014) as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” It is our view that everyone can attain a good state of mental health if only a conducive environment is created for them to do so. Women’s health takes on a different dimension to that of men in the sense that they are more prone to certain mental health conditions such as depression, eating disorders and suicidal ideation in adolescence and depression, anxiety as well as serious bipolar depression as adults than their male counterparts (World Health Organisation 2002).
Traumatic events in a person’s life can trigger or exacerbate a mental health condition. Rape leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, for example (Kilpatrick no date) – something which can become a life-long condition if not adequately treated and managed. Unfortunately, as a country with a culture of violence, particularly against society’s most vulnerable and a lack of psychosocial support, women often fall victim not only to these criminal activities but to the poor mental health that ensues as a result.
This week is National Child Protection Week 2019. During this time we must seek to protect the girl child who often falls victim to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. According South African Police Service’s 2017/2018 Crime Statistics (2018) 294 girl children were reported to have been murdered in South Africa, which is wholly unacceptable. Section 28(2) of the Constitution indicates that the best interests of the child are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child but can this really reflect the values of society when statistics like this exist?
So what is to be done?
First of all, all of society must become educated as to what women are entitled to under our law. Equality is a conrnerstone of our constitutional democracy and the entire body of enabling legislation echoes this. The public must acquire an understanding of the law so as to diminish perceptions that women are not equal to their male counterparts and treat women with dignity and equality in all of their interactions with them.
Second of all, South Africa must properly implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women through adequate policy and legislation. Action plans must be developed in terms of how to combat discrimination in the workplace and in other spaces. This will improve the overall mental health of women.
While women need not be treated with kid gloves, history has rendered them vulnerable to abuse, detracting from them being able to live to their fullest potential. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness which are a catalyst for the mental health conditions set out above. Let us root out discriminatory practices and let women live happy and fulfilling lives. It’s time to #takeyourplace in promoting women’s mental health, starting from now.
Project Leader: Information and Awareness
South African Federation for Mental Health
Tel: 011 781 1852
Tel: 072 2577 938