Gender and the Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Illness

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Hi folks!

Hopefully this post creates a bit of discussion as I think the topic it covers is very important.

The other day I participated in an interview about eating disorders in the workplace and me and the interviewer got a little side tracked and we began to talk about how men and women are treated differently when it becomes known that they have a mental illness.

From my own personal experience I can’t say that I’ve ever really had any one say anything negative about my struggles with mental health issues. I’ve never had anyone say that I was “doing it for attention” (as far as I know) and my friends, relatives and co-workers have always been supportive yet I see a lot of girls saying that people aren’t so supportive of them and that their friends and family judge them for what they say. Maybe I am exceptionally lucky to be supported by the people around me, maybe there are a lot of guys who don’t get the support that I do but I can’t help but think it’s because girls are stereotypically seen as “drama queens” and so people dismiss them as attention seeking rather than actually being in need.

Thinking about it I have had a lot of people tell me that they “didn’t know guys could get eating disorders”. This is often met with a flurry of curiosity and questions rather than negative comments and judgement. I think the majority of people still see eating disorders to be an issue of vanity rather than a deeper mental health condition and so when girls come forward to say that they are struggling with an eating disorder they are often seen as being narcissistic when in fact they are really struggling.

Gender equality isn’t really something I’d normally talk about but apparently women are 40% more likely to suffer with a mental health condition than men. If you look through support groups on Facebook and forums the girls already vastly outnumber the boys but more may not be coming forward to get treatment for fearing that they will be told they are just attention seeking, or worse feeling isolated because the people around them don’t take them seriously.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, from both the male and female perspectives. Lets have a discussion!

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