"Don't be a girl, MAN UP!"

Is gender stereotyping impacting upon people seeking mental health treatment?

By Grace Farrar

A stereotype is defined by the Oxford Languages (2021) a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. How many of us have felt the burden of having to live up to set expectations that we haven’t even set for ourselves? It is tiring and unfair, but furthermore, it is affecting the way that mental health may be treated because of the way stereotypes may make some of us feel like should “get a grip”.

Stereotypes appear to be a constant in everyday life. The use of them in relation to gender leads to expectations surrounding how men and women should define themselves and furthermore how they are treated by others based on this set of ‘beliefs’ (Ellemers, 2018). These gender norms/values appear to be persistent within society, thus making it paramount that we recognise the influence of gender stereotypes on both the understanding and treatment of mental health today (WHO, 2018)

"Harmful gender stereotyping has helped fuel the UK mental health crisis”

writes Rebecca Smithers as part of the article “Gender stereotyping is harming young people's mental health, finds UK report”, The Guardian, December 2020.

Wirth and Bodenhausen (2009) wanted to investigate this concept further, researching the association of mental illness stigma and how gender is incorporated. Their results represented that in ‘gender typical’ mental health cases, respondents felt less sympathy and less inclined to help, compared to cases that were ‘atypical’. This clearly outlines the role of gender as being significant in the reception of mental health in addition to associated stigmas. The research concluded that when respondents knew the gender of the individual this heavily impacted upon their view of the particular mental illness, reflecting the intertwined relationship of gender and mental health.  

Furthermore, due to the significant impact that gender stereotyping clearly appears to have on both the reaction to and treatment of mental health, certain research institutions are instigating the requirement for gender-specific mental health services for men and women. This is because of the gender-based differences in rates of depression, suicide rates and mental health issues and because of this it requires a specific gender tailored system for treatment (Stiawa et al, 2020).

This is why the mission of unmasked is to unmask the stigma that is not only associated with mental health but promoting the message that our services are available to aid in empowering those to speak out. So much has been done by ourselves and other organisations we are proud to work alongside, but it still appears that we all need to do what we can to show that mental health is not a weakness, no matter what your gender, you are important and you matter.

Unmasked is a charitable organisation based in Halifax, West Yorkshire and the work done by Unmasked is recognised as being invaluable to the individuals and wider communities that use it. We pride ourselves on providing a range of services that is based on unmasking the stigma that still currently surrounds mental health. This is done through our app ‘Unmasked’ available on the App Store and peer support hubs that are facilitated entirely on the concept of providing opportunities for communities to be able to unite together and support each other. 

Since November 2020, Unmasked has become the full circle of support and now offers a low cost counselling service to provide support at a professional capacity. All who volunteer here have a dedicated attitude to promoting the importance of speaking about mental wellbeing and want to be able to continue doing all they can to achieve the goal of offering ongoing support and reducing the stigma associated with mental health. 

 

Grace Farrar 

Unmasked Co-ordinator

15 April 2021

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