Mental health plays a significant role in humans’ daily life and drives their decision-making and opportunities. While people of all genders might be exposed to psychological problems, women with mental illnesses have been marginalized in various spheres, including healthcare. The complexity of social roles modern women has to perform exposes them to continuous stress that becomes a risk factor for developing minor and severe mental disorders. The number of women in this marginalized group increases. Therefore, marginalized women with mental illness require particular attention from both scholars and healthcare workers to minimize the harmful impact of their marginalization and provide relevant care based on their needs. This paper aims at exploring the specific features concerning the challenges that marginalized women with mental health problems encountered. In particular, statistical data, economic aspects, social justice, and ethical considerations will be discussed in detail. Also, a plan of action will be presented in order to facilitate the quality of care provided to marginalized women with mental illnesses.
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Women with mental illnesses include female individuals suffering from both minor and severe psychological and psychiatric disorders that impact their lifestyle. The number of women diagnosed with mental health illnesses increases, which might be associated with the growing burden of multifaceted responsibilities women acquires, occupying several important roles at economic, political, social, professional, family, and individual levels (Moorkath et al., 2019). The statistical data imply that of the two genders, females are disproportionately exposed to developing mental health problems. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2017) provide the numbers indicating that within the population of all age groups older than 18, females diagnosed with serious psychological distress constitute 4.8% while men with the same issues account for 2.9%. The same disproportion is observed in the rate of physician office visits, emergency department visits, and mortality, where women display higher rates than men (CDC, 2017). This national statistic reflects the state’s situation and demonstrates that marginalized women with mental illnesses constitute a numerous population, whose needs and problems must be appropriately addressed via necessary means.
Economic Aspects of Marginalized Women with Mental Illness
When viewed from the economic perspective, women diagnosed with mental health illnesses are commonly exposed to diminished opportunities to make a living. This tendency is associated with the loss of working ability and the specific working environment this population might require. Unemployment and commonly observed family abandonment of people with severe mental disorders cause poverty in this marginalized group (Moorkath et al., 2019). The economic status of women with mental disorders constitutes their housing status and income level, which predetermine their life opportunities and decision-making related to healthcare, in particular (Moravac, 2018). Thus, the economic aspect of the discussed issue plays a decisive role in the marginalized group’s ability to access vital means.
Social Justice and Health Disparities
The process of marginalization harms the members of the group since women with mental health problems have their particular requirements, the failure to meet, which might lead to complications and stigmatizing. Indeed, “the stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health and their potential impact on marginalization” range from “denial of opportunities to social and cultural exclusion” (Moorkath et al., 2019, p. 306). The social justice aspect concerning the marginalized status of women with mental illnesses demonstrates that females are often perceived as irresponsible individuals who become a burden for others. As a result of such perception, many individuals within the discussed marginalized group are abandoned by their families, become homeless or institutionalized, and suffer from numerous disadvantages associated with their mental health status.
The health outcomes associated with the marginalization of women with mental illnesses commonly include maltreatment, under-diagnosis, and diminished access to healthcare. One of the important issues of women’s health is regular screening for breast and cervical cancer as an obligatory preventative measure. International research on “screening rates of highly marginalized women such as those living in homeless shelters and supportive mental health care residences is scarce, contradictory, and often difficult to compare due to variation in sample sizes, demographics, and study design” (Moravac, 2018, p. 2). However, the available data shows that such women are much less likely to attend regular screening tests and obtain a timely diagnosis, which is associated with their marginalized status (Moravac, 2018). Also, research shows that for a long time, women with psychiatric disorders have been exposed to involuntary medical interventions that diminish their human rights. Indeed, forced and coerced sterilization of women is significant health care and ethical concern that intensifies the burden of marginalization and obstructs the wellbeing of such patients (Patel, 2017). Thus, the marginalization of women with mental health problems leads to health disparities and unequal access to care.
The ethical considerations concerning the discussed marginalized group include the features that require specific addressing when providing care for the designated population. In particular, women with mental health issues are entitled to receive the same quality of care as any other population. Equal treatment of all individuals regardless of their mental health or socio-economic status should be provided depending on the needs of a person. Since mental illnesses impose specific features on the delivery of healthcare, the particularities of behavioral or cognitive features of every patient need to be taken into consideration to ensure the provision of ethical standards. Human rights principles and the wellbeing of this marginalized group is key concern when providing qualified healthcare. Research shows that women with mental illnesses are continuously exposed to unjust treatment at medical institutions worldwide (Patel, 2017). Some decisive medical interventions, such as sterilization, are often performed without properly documented consent that diminishes the human rights of this marginalized population (Patel, 2017). Therefore, it is imperative for the personnel working with such patients to be aware of their particularities and address their needs preserving dignity.
Plan of Actions
In order to eliminate the burden of health disparities associated with the marginalized status of women with mental illnesses, specific actions emphasizing their need for specialized assistance are required. Firstly, it is important to raise awareness by means of community-based interventions about marginalized women with mental illnesses, the challenges they encounter, and the help they need. It will allow for facilitating the recognition of the group as the one deserving public attention, as well as attracting volunteers to assist local female residents with mental disorders. Secondly, on an individual level, building patient-centered sensitive relationships are required to increase the level of trust that will ultimately lead to the improvement of diagnosis, timely treatment of comorbidities, and their prevention.
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Thirdly, it is necessary to initiate specific personnel training to deeper acknowledge them about the particularities of the patients served. When it comes to females, gender-related issues, such as timely screening for women’s health impairments, need to be adequately addressed. For that matter, specialized training will provide an opportunity to acquire proper knowledge and skills in serving women with mental health problems and bridge the gap in healthcare-associated with their marginalized status. To measure the outcomes of the proposed actions, one might compare the data indicating the number of admissions and visits of the target population to the local hospital. This will show if the rates grew, meaning that the interventions were successful. As for the staff training and establishing trusting gender-specific relationships with the patients, more time will be required to measure the outcomes of these actions. However, the changes in the rates of screening tests and health status improvement will demonstrate whether the efforts were fruitful.
In summation, women with mental illnesses are marginalized in the contemporary healthcare system. The statistics show that females are more likely to develop mental health illnesses and, therefore, are more exposed to the burdens of marginalization as a group of patients with particular needs. The challenges of social integration and social justice issues lead to women’s unemployment, economic disadvantages, homelessness, and poverty. These adverse experiences are commonly associated with stigmatization and discrimination that limit this population’s access to healthcare. As a consequence, women with mental illnesses have fewer screenings for cancer, have worse health quality, and are more exposed to forced medical interventions in comparison to the general public. To eliminate the burden of marginalization, actions aimed at raising community-based awareness, personnel training, and establishing informed relationships are needed. Specifically, designed interventions will help to fill the gap in the delivery of healthcare to the target population and minimize the impact on their marginalized status on their wellbeing.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Mental health. Web.
- Moorkath, F., Vranda, M. N., & Naveenkumar, C. (2019). Women with mental illness: An overview of sociocultural factors influencing family rejection and subsequent institutionalization in India. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 41(4), 306-310. doi: 10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_123_19
- Moravac, C. C. (2018). Reflections of homeless women and women with mental health challenges on breast and cervical cancer screening decisions: Power, trust, and communication with care providers. Frontiers in Public Health, 6(30), 1-15. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00030
- Patel, P. (2017). Forced sterilization of women as discrimination. Public Health Reviews, 38(15), 1-12. DOI 10.1186/s40985-017-0060-9