A Disproportionate Impact
By Lynn Branigan
“We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together.” These 18 words from Michelle Obama speak volumes about the stigma of mental illness, and the need to address mental illness as we would any physical injury, pain, or trauma.
Designating May as National Mental Health Awareness Month was an action taken in 1949 to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and to recognize seeking help as a sign of strength, not weakness. I am addressing it in this message because women can be disproportionately impacted by mental illness. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety. The problem is particularly prevalent among working women, who navigate careers while also shouldering the majority of child and home responsibilities. The pandemic, as we all know, made matters much, much worse. In a month that also celebrates mothers, we know that working Moms encountered inordinate stress during the Covid crisis. Watching a nation at war reminds us daily that violence, wars, and disasters are particularly cruel to women and children.
During the past two years, She Runs It has rallied around the promise of helping our community stay strong, current, connected, and included. I’d like to add, “and cared for.” I’m not suggesting we can provide the type of care that can address mental illness, but we can be advocates for self-care and expression. We can provide a safe space for women – and all individuals for that matter – to take a breath, assess their sense of self, and ask for help.
We can remove any stigma associated with mental illness inside our community, and we can remind each other that we are valued, and valuable. We can extend a hand, lend an ear, offer a shoulder. And applaud the courage of those who seek the help they need.