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The Impact of Gender Stereotypes and Societal Norms On Depression Among Women
Cultures vary widely in how they label, interpret, and respond to mental illness. Culture defines the standards of normal behaviour and experience are different for women and men. Mental health is more than just absence of symptoms. It is the ability to function well, to cope with problems and to be satisfied with one’s life. A mentally healthy person is called well adjusted. But what if a person’s life situation is too difficult, problematic and stressful to lend itself to adjustment? If a woman is trapped in a violent marriage is it mentally healthy for her to adjust? Or are dissatisfaction and resistance more mentally healthy responses? Depression is often a reaction to conditions in the external environment. Depression among women has often been attributed to inherent biological or psychological weaknesses. At times in history women who have refused to live by the rules for the feminine gender have been labeled as deviant. Women and men have traditionally been expected to adjust to different role expectations and behavioral norms. There are different role expectations of what is mentally healthy for women and men. Although mental illness may virtually always indicate real distress, the form in which that distress is expressed is, to a certain extent, dictated by cultural expectations. The distress is real, but the categories of mental illness are social constructions. There is increasing recognition that addressing the social determinants of health such as housing, education and employment has a profound impact on one’s physical and mental health.