“I try to factor in some 'me time' every day - just things like a long bath to relax. It doesn't sound much, but it's so important. ”
Women are strong and resilient, and they thrive when they feel respected and safe in their surroundings and relationships. They often play many roles at the same time - including paid work, unpaid domestic and community work, and caring for children and other family members. Women also face certain unique challenges. They experience major physical changes during stages of life like pregnancy, after childbirth, and at menopause.
You might experience postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues after having a child. Social and cultural expectations to take on parenting or caring roles, discrimination, body image, and self-esteem issues are a few other factors that can take their toll on your wellbeing.
Many women give so much of their time and energy to work, family, and daily responsibilities that they can often neglect their own self-care. Looking after yourself first and being able to meet your own needs is important. In doing so, you also ensure you have more capacity to care for others (if you are in a caring role) and contribute to healthy relationships with others.
If you are experiencing signs of a mental health condition, or know a woman who is, there are a few ideas on this page on what you can do. You can also read more about general wellbeing on our meaningful life pages.
A closer look
It’s important to have a good relationship with yourself first
Looking after yourself first and being able to meet your own needs is connected to your level of self-esteem. If you feel good about who you are, you’ll then have greater capacity to contribute to healthy and respectful relationships with others. Having a good relationship with yourself improves your relationships with others.
A woman is twice as likely to experience depression than a man
Depression is also the most common women’s mental health problem and may be more persistent in women than in men. Around 16% of women experience depression during the first year after childbirth. (Source 1) (Source 2)
Domestic violence can have severe negative effects on women’s mental health
In Australia, 1 in 6 women have experienced violence from a current or former partner. Physical and sexual violence, as well as emotional abuse often result in posttraumatic stress, depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol misuse, and even suicidal thoughts or attempts. Identifying an unhealthy relationship early on is critical. More information on domestic violence is available here. (Source 1) (Source 2)
The empowerment of women is the best way to promote women’s mental health
Feeling powerful and in charge of your life is not just about your attitude. It also means being able to get the education, job, and healthcare you want. Having more opportunities and choice - and taking the opportunities you do have - can improve your sense of independence and hope. Being aware of this link is the first step towards positive change. (Source 1) (Source 2)
When it comes to mental illness, the sexes are different
It’s important to realise that mental ill-health affects men and women differently. Studies have shown that women are more likely to develop anxiety and depression, but they are also more likely to reach out for help, while men are more likely to develop substance abuse or antisocial problems, which can often lead to aggressive behaviour. Women also tend to have less problems with alcohol or drugs than men, and on average, they have better outcomes from psychosis. (Source)
Improving your mental health and wellbeing
Talking with a health professional, such as a GP, is a good start. Find out how your mental health issues may be linked to physical changes in your body and the treatment options. Talking therapies are recommended, particularly with mental health professionals who specialise in the difficulties you’re experiencing. You can use the National Health Services Directory to find a health professional near you.
Take time to reflect on the relationships you have with others and whether they are supportive or destructive. Connecting with people can prevent you from feeling isolated when difficulties arise.
Devoting time to self-care is also important. Things like improving the quality of your sleep and diet, exercising regularly, and spending time with supportive people such as friends and family can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Sharing your feelings with others, doing activities you enjoy, and taking time to relax can help you move towards the change you want. You can find out more about self-care and improving your wellbeing in the meaningful life pages of this website.
Helping the women in your life
It can be helpful to be aware of the issues the women in your life face, and the impacts those issues may have on their mental health. Learning about the life stages that lead to a woman’s physical and emotional changes is critical. Whether it’s your sister, daughter, mother, aunt, or friend, let her know that it’s okay to talk about any difficulties she’s having. If you’re not comfortable talking about it, help her to find a GP, mental health professional, or friend who is.
Knowing about some of the real social challenges for women, such as personal safety concerns, discrimination, poor body image, or low self-esteem will give you a new perspective on what she may be dealing with. In helping a woman with a mental health condition, it is important to look after yourself as well. You can find more information on caring for someone on this page.
Being female makes a difference when you have a mental health condition, because of the biological differences. Your body is changing literally day to day because of the menstrual cycle. Being aware of where I am in that cycle helps immensely. I imagine that if you don’t have to deal with those constant hormonal changes, then things are slightly less confusing.
As a mother, it's only natural to put your children and family first. I would miss appointments at times when somebody else needed me. I pretended that I was okay when I wasn’t. This was to my detriment, as sometimes you have to put your mental health first, for everyone's sake as well as your own.
As a policewoman, I was emotionally strong and well-respected. When I got diagnosed with PTSD I thought my whole career would be questioned.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).