In honor of Mental Health Month, Quartet’s focus this week will be the “Mental Health x Me” series, a compilation of pieces that highlight how communal identity can influence mental health and access to mental health care. Each piece in this series was written by a Quartet Employee Resource Group (ERG). ERGs enhance the sense of belonging for diverse groups at Quartet, provide safe spaces for employees to lean on each other, and generate belonging among employees. The below was submitted by the Womxn in Quartet (WIQ) ERG.
In support of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Womxn in Quartet Employee Resources Group (WIQ) asked members how their gender identity impacts their mental health and what role they believe it has played in helping them access mental health care.
The responses wrestled with the complexities of identity, particularly as it relates to norms and stigma. “I think my gender as a woman makes accessing mental health more acceptable, but it can also play into the stigma that I am a woman and therefore I am more sensitive,” a WIQ member responded. That sentiment translates to the realities we see across the globe and within Quartet: although the prevalence of mental health disorders is similar between men and women, women are more likely to seek care. For example, in one of Quartet’s markets, Quartet has seen up to 70% of mental health referrals be for women, compared to only 30% for men.
Identity can also play a larger role in care-seeking behavior. As one WIQ respondent mentioned, gender identity “affects the providers I look for since I feel more comfortable with female providers. I think they would understand my issues better.” The role of identity in the patient-provider relationship spans further than just gender, as another respondent noted: “I feel more comfortable seeking mental health with female groups or providers. If anything truly impacts my mental health, it is my culture, race, and upbringing.”
These additional identities also shape our experiences, which are fundamental in understanding and addressing mental health. As one respondent noted, for women it can feel like “there are a lot more societal norms and stigmas we have to be cognizant of. There is a demand to be a good mother, worker, friend, homemaker… [to] be pretty or in shape… and I think all that can add to the overall everyday stress of being a woman.” Gender bias and stereotypes can contribute to why wrestling with mental health is different for women than men, including rates of depression and anxiety.
As we reflect on Mental Health Month, it is essential that we acknowledge the role our identities play in how we seek care, as well as the way we care for ourselves: by addressing the societal norms and stigma that come with being a woman, we can better understand how to support one another.