Gender Equality Month and mental health
Although Gender Equality Month is often focused on gender equality for women, this article will also discuss equality for all gender minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals as well as harmful stereotypes against men and masculine-presenting individuals. In this article, "man”, "woman”, "boy”, "girl”, "non-binary", and "trans" will be used to describe various gender identities and are intended to include anyone who identifies with each label.
Different kinds of celebrations are being commemorated across the globe. There's National Women's Health and Fitness Day, National Suicide Prevention Day, Hispanic Heritage Month, and many more. Gender Equality Month occurs every March to celebrate and amplify efforts to increase gender equality in the workplace, healthcare, government, and other parts of life worldwide. It aims to raise awareness of gender bias and stigma in order to affect positive change in gender equity. Gender Equality Month is separate from but coincides with International Women's Day on March 8 and Women's History Month, which also occurs in March. The month celebrates women's contributions to the world through political, cultural, social, and academic achievements.
What is Gender Equality Month?
Although several women's rights holidays also occur in March, Gender Equality Month is a United Nations-recognized observance that brings awareness to all gender minorities, gender-diverse individuals, and gender-related stereotypes. It takes a broader view of gender to include a full spectrum of identities and experiences.
Why does equality matter?
Raising awareness of gender equality can be beneficial because it represents the opportunity to highlight the unique experiences of people who may not have a voice on certain issues, or who experience specific challenges or obstacles as a result of their gender. For example, individuals who identify as a gender minority—someone with a gender that’s different from their biological sex—are more likely to experience symptoms of a mental health condition than those who do not.
Those who identify as women are also likely to experience gender inequality in many aspects of life, including reproductive health, mental health care, relationships, careers, schooling, and society as a whole. Gender Equality Month offers a chance for women, gender minorities, and other related, marginalized groups to come together to talk about experiences, support, and resources and to work together toward equality.
How the women’s rights movement began
The women’s rights movement began in 1848 and has continued to grow and evolve. It started when Elizabeth Cady Stanton invited a group of women to discuss their experiences of injustice while at a tea party hosted by Jane Hunt. Elizabeth Cady Stanton eventually invited several men and women to a convention on women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York.
From there, the women’s movement has grown and changed to encompass a variety of causes, all related to the fight for social justice in gender equality. Activists continue to fight for equal pay, freedom from harassment, and equitable education and health care as well as other civil liberties. There is still much work to be done, but with each generation, the world takes great strides to foster gender equality.
How to celebrate Gender Equality Month
To observe Gender Equality Month, you might consider engaging in activities that aim to raise awareness of gender inequality and promote the acceptance and support of all types of minorities. A few ways to do this could include:
- Proactively learning about the experiences of transgender individuals and gender minorities
- Supporting individuals who need reproductive care
- Challenging stereotypes about receiving mental health care, like therapy
- Providing gender inequality statistics on social media to raise awareness
- Challenging harmful stereotypes about gender
- Attending a gender equality parade or march
- Attending the Women's March
- Donating to or volunteering with an LGBTQ+ youth project
- Donating to a research project or nonprofit led by a transgender person(s)
- Donating books on equality and/or books that are written by gender-diverse authors to your local library
- Teaching people ways to support gender minorities and fight for equal rights
Gender inequality in mental health
Various studies have pointed to significant inequalities and gender disparities in mental health care for women and gender minorities. These inequalities may also be more significant for those whose identities intersect with one or more other marginalized groups, such as people of color or those with disabilities. Below are a few ways in which Gender Equality Month events and resources aim to address these universal availability issues and affect meaningful change.
Challenging gender bias and mental health myths
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) outlines a few myths about mental health conditions that are pervasive in modern society. Some other incorrect stereotypes you might hear could include the following:
- "Being transgender is a mental health condition." (False)
- "Taking hormones worsens mental health in trans people." (False)
- "Men don't get depressed."(False)
- "Women are genetically more sensitive than men." (False)
- "Being LGBTQ+ is a disease." (False)
- "Women don't commit suicide.”* (False)
Challenging myths like these when you hear them can be one way to educate people and promote gender equality, especially around mental health. If you feel unsure about certain topics, making an effort to educate yourself using reputable sources—such as public figures who are constituents of marginalized communities and peer-reviewed academic journals—can be helpful.
*If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. Support is available 24/7.
Reproductive health care is connected to the gender, sexuality, and mental health of many individuals with a gynecological reproductive system. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the US, abortion rights and other types of reproductive care have been severely restricted and/or are at risk for millions. As a result, many individuals and groups have been advocating for legislative change on the federal level to have power over their body. In addition to abortion services, reproductive and related types of care can also include:
- STI prevention and screenings
- Birth control
- Surgeries for gynecological health
- Family planning
- Pregnancy resources
- Transgender healthcare
- Gender affirming-surgeries
- Sexual education
Gender Equality Month intends to raise more awareness about these areas of health care and why they impact the mental health of millions of people worldwide. If you want to get involved in fighting for reproductive rights, consider connecting with the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The mental health of transgender and non-binary individuals is often heavily impacted by how society treats them. A 2022 study found that 82% of transgender individuals have considered suicide, and 40% have attempted it. Another study found that using a person’s correct pronouns can improve their mental health. Additionally, gender-affirming health care and entry to hormones have been associated with better mental health in those who identify as gender minorities.
Gender Equality Month also includes the Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, which can help shed light on the need to amplify the voices of transgender and non-binary people, challenge stereotypes, and support those who experience mental health challenges due to gender discrimination. It can also point to the importance of providing suicide prevention resources along with other forms of unbiased, trauma-informed, culturally informed, and compassionate mental health care for transgender people and those who identify as a gender minority.
If you're an LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, reach out to The Trevor Project hotline by calling 1-866-488-7386, texting "START" to 678-678, or using their online chat.
Increasing the availability of trauma-informed mental health care may be another step toward gender equality in the mental health field. Women are two to three times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men and are more often impacted by intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Trans people are also four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent crime.
Doctors, physicians, nurses, and mental health care providers who have training in trauma-informed care may be better able to offer compassionate and practical support to women and gender minorities who have experienced violence or assault. When a mental health provider in particular meets with someone who is facing mental health effects after a traumatic experience, handling the situation with the utmost care and understanding can be crucial both in the healing process and in not further traumatizing the individual.
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Stigmas around men's mental health
Men may also face stigmas when it comes to mental health care, and Gender Equality Month can be a time to encourage men to reach out for the mental health support they may need despite them. Stereotypes about therapy being "for women" or a "non-masculine" form of treatment are false and can be harmful.
In light of these pervasive myths, the American Psychological Association (APA) outlines helpful guidelines for providers offering therapy and other mental health services to men and boys. Educating men on mental health and raising awareness of the fact that depression and other mental illnesses can impact people of any gender may be imperative in reducing stigmas.
Another key element of promoting true gender equality involves acknowledging the various other identities that may intersect with a person’s gender identity. For example, someone might identify as transgender, a woman, and Black. Another person may identify as Jewish, a lesbian, an immigrant, and non-binary. There are endless potential combinations of identity, and the way identities intersect can also impact each person's mental health.
For instance, 28% of LGBTQ+ people of color have no health insurance. LGBTQ+ BIPOC may also receive unequal diagnoses and experience ethnicity-based discrimination and/or racism, which a white LGBTQ+ person may not. In other words, it can be impactful to acknowledge and promote the fact that not every woman or trans person or a person of color or person of any other marginalized group will need the same care. Raising awareness of and celebrating this diversity may be an important step on the road to ensuring everyone has admittance to the specific type of care they may need.
Regardless of your gender, if you are experiencing challenges with your mental health, know you're not alone. Reaching out for help can be brave, and there are many therapists available who specialize in various identities and topics. This Gender Equality Month, consider looking for a therapist in your area or online.
You may benefit from online counseling if you face barriers to treatment, such as stigma, cost, or a lack of options. With online therapy, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people who are striving for equality as their authentic selves. Online therapy can be done from home or any location with an internet connection, and you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist.
Additionally, one study found that 71% of participants who tried online therapy found it preferable to in-person methods. If you're interested in getting started, consider reaching out to a therapist through a platform like BetterHelp, which offers over 30,000 trained and licensed providers. You can also try a site like PrideCounseling if you're part of the LGBT+ community. Therapy can play an indispensable role in your mental health journey, regardless of whether you have a diagnosed mental illness.
Every March, people around the United States celebrate Gender Equality Month to bring awareness to the inequalities often faced by gender minorities, including transgender and non-binary individuals. Gender Equality Month can also be an opportunity to discuss gender stigmas for men in treatment for mental health conditions. Regardless of your gender identity or sexuality, there is support available through therapy, whether in person or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people who have lived through the consequences of gender inequality. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
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