Gender Disparities in Pandemic Recovery: Focus on Women’s Mental Health

I’ve been looking ahead to our upcoming Community Conversation with a personal sense of both anxiety and anticipation. Mental health and wellbeing are deeply personal subjects to me. In my lifetime, mental health challenges led to the suicides of one aunt and my grandmother (both on my dad’s side). My younger sister passed away before her 43rd birthday in 2019, not by suicide, but definitely as a consequence of two decades of mental health challenges. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we sheltered in place, I confided with family and close friends that I could not see how she would have survived living through what we experienced.

Mental illness affects all segments of our society. But it disproportionately affects racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, women, and young adults. As the American Psychiatric Association notes, these populations “often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high-quality mental health care services, the cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.” Suicide ideation, particularly amongst young adults and teens, and especially women of color, jumped during the pandemic. As a father of a teen and a young adult, I witnessed the mental toll distance learning and sheltering in place had on them. And neither of them experienced the disparities in access to health services many others face. 

When the Foundation began to focus on how to support recovery, rebuilding, and reimagining efforts to create vibrant communities, we first discussed the disparities brought about by a K-shaped recovery. That led to an opportunity to dive deeper into how the pandemic has exacerbated challenges for women. 

Our first session, this coming Tuesday (November 16, 2021) will focus on women and mental health for many reasons. As The Economist noted last month, a recent Lancet study concluded that women’s mental health was more affected by the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a report that showed “increased emergency department visits for youth between ages 12-17, especially girls, presenting with suspected suicide attempt.” Others have documented the rise in post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, and depression amongst women. Many other examples document the pandemic’s impact on women and their mental wellbeing.

 We have a fantastic panel of speakers, plus a top-flight moderator, with insights and experiences to share on community mental health services, pregnant and post-partum women, teenage students, frontline healthcare workers, and so much more.  Our collective challenge will be to not simply describe the challenges of the day but to identify the potential steps we can take to rebuild and reimagine better mental health approaches and services to support community members. I hope you’ll join us for the discussion

A number of articles, posts, and other sources we’ve gathered over the past few months are included as references below. We’ve also included a short resource list. If you would like to suggest others for us to include in either list, please submit a comment or reply to this post.

 

Articles, posts, and other sources:

International sources:

  1. Journal Plos One, July 9, 2021, “Gender-affirming care, mental health, and economic stability in the time of COVID-19: A multi-national, cross-sectional study of transgender and nonbinary people
  2. Spain, Frontiers in Global Women’s Health: Gender Differences in Psychological Impact of the Confinement During the COVID-19 Outbreak in Spain, June 24, 2021
  3. Vox EU: Non-US / Lockdowns Widen the Gender Gap in Mental Health
  4. Women’s Health Victoria (Australia): Women’s mental health in the context of COVID-19

Resources:

Adin Miller, Executive Director, Los Altos Mountain View Community Foundation

 

Adin Miller, Los Altos Community Foundation Executive Director
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