- Research revealed that Indian women experience more perceived stigma than men when seeking psychiatric services
- Gender-based violence and male dominance in Indian society often subject women to physical and emotional torture and poor mental health.
Though both men and women report similar levels of depression, Indian women experience more perceived stigma while seeking psychiatric service at mental healthcare clinics, an Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) report stated.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a broad range of socially constructed differences between Indian men and women regarding their roles, power, responsibilities, and status which interact with their biological differences. All these differences eventually contribute to the kind of mental health problems experienced by men and women.
Research has already shown that men and women face many gender-based differences in their everyday lives that are significantly associated with the higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in females compared to males. Moreover, lower self-esteem and anxiety regarding body image are more common among adolescent girls than boys of similar age.
While sharing her own experience, a 23-year-old university student, Surabhi Patnayak said that she developed anxiety and eating disorders after suffering from extreme body-shaming and fat-shaming in school. “For a decade of my life, I was battling fat-shaming, fighting stigma on ‘how a woman should look’, and the constant stress of stereotypes,” said Surabhi.
“Oppression and dominance result in aggressive and physical abuse, and women have been victimized often. This affects one’s mental health to a large extent and is a contributor to mental illness,” said Anureet Sethi, a Mumbai-based clinical therapist. She even mentioned that gender-based violence and male dominance in Indian society often result in emotional and physical torture on women.
She added that most women choose to stay silent until their mental health adversely affects their personal life. Additionally, they are often discouraged to express their feelings due to their fear of getting stigmatized. Several studies showed evidence that many individuals with a mental illness don’t receive proper treatment because of a lack of awareness, availability of healthcare services, the existence of social stigma and discrimination, unequal distribution, and scarcity of resources.
In Indian society, a woman with mental health issues often fears that her psychological problems can create hurdles in her marriage. The fear of getting rejected by her family or in-laws forces her to hide her illness from others. “If women are diagnosed with mental illness, it is considered a shame for the family. As women play the role of nurturer and child-bearer, mental illness is seen as an obstacle in her contribution to the family as a good caregiver,” Sethi explained.
P.S- Name of the sufferer changed due to privacy issues