Guest blog by Sasha, aged 21 in Manchester.
In her blog below she discusses themes of the mental health of young women and girls, the pressures of social media and higher education.
“Voicing our issues and concerns has never been so important. Lockdown periods and social isolation have had a huge impact on our mental health, as both women and men are experiencing great pressures on day-to-day life. Whether it’s the uncertainty of the current pandemic, worries for loved ones, or fears of life returning back to ‘normal’, it is so important that we recognise that these feelings are completely normal. I think we’ve all felt stressed and overwhelmed when one anxious thought builds on top of another, and finding a solution on our own can be so challenging. But speaking out and voicing these concerns can help take some weight off your shoulders. The charity Polly is a safe space and will be offering a helpline that offers support to women and girls, which can help relieve this pressure. Polly will be a place where women and girls aged 13+ can be listened to and fully supported. It is so important to get your emotions off your chest and say what you need to. In a comforting and non-judgemental environment, whether it be a phone call or webchat, saying our worries out loud can help ease our minds, so we don’t bottle up our emotions.
As 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year and 1 in 4 women are requiring treatment for depression, voicing our thoughts and feelings is crucial for our mental well-being.
Effects of COVID-19 on university students mental health
As a final year student at University, it can be both high stress and exhausting to study for endless hours and complete deadlines on little sleep. I find myself feeling a bit strange some days when I haven’t spoken to anyone in a while; not really feeling myself because I’ve had no time to take a break and focus on myself. I think it can feel isolating sometimes when you don’t acknowledge if you are feeling low or unmotivated but sitting down and processing your feelings out loud can really help relieve some of this pressure. It isn’t always easy talking to friends or family about your mental health, but it is so important to talk to somebody.
Suicide rates among young women and girls are growing in the UK
The pressures of everyday life have led to a frightening statistic for young women, as Suicide for women in their early 20's is now at its highest level for two decades. This can also be seen in the fact that 95 higher education students died by suicide in England and Wales in 2017. The extensive pressure put on young people can be a lot, and no one should have to face these feelings alone. Polly’s helpline and webchat service will be 100% confidential and anonymous, so no worry is too big or small to air out, as the helpline can signpost you to additional services if needed. Whether something has gone wrong in our lives or just a really bad day, there is support out there for young women and girls.
Violence against women and girls rises during the pandemic
Consciously or subconsciously, our lives as women are affected by our personal experiences. While public life has been put on pause, calls to domestic abuse hotlines increased by 65% during the pandemic, with 1.6 million women sufferers every year. Such physical and mental issues are not always visible and it is important to speak out and reach out to others.
Our experience as women often means that we don’t always feel safe on the streets; we can feel anxious on public transport or, like any other person, fall victim to mental, physical, or sexual abuse. As more than 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence and nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced completed, or attempted rape during their lifetime, support for women and girls is urgent. Polly, staffed only by women, trained professionals, will provide a comforting conversation and safe space to discuss these issues. Also, Polly can signpost to further support if necessary, such as domestic abuse services or rape crisis centres, where you can chat confidentially about your experiences.
Social media harms teens and young women
As a young woman, I know that the pressures of society and social media can have a huge impact on our self-esteem. Scrolling on our phones for endless hours can leave us feeling pretty rubbish afterward and can really take a toll on our mental health. It is so important to take a break from our screens, get some fresh air and relieve some of these damaging expectations for women.
Young people aged 16-24 were found to be less likely to receive mental health treatment than any other age group, which further highlights the harmful effects societal pressure can have on women. Similarly, It is estimated that 75% of people with mental health problems in England may not get access to the treatment they need. This really stresses how important it is to voice our issues before they can build up and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and get the support we need. Speaking out when we are feeling sad, angry, or emotional is a step in the right direction and can help balance our feelings and the stresses of everyday life.
Depression in women
It is okay to express our emotions, it is okay not to feel happy all the time, and it is okay to cry!
But we must not let these feelings go unnoticed or unrecognised. Since 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime, opening up the conversation about mental health can help reduce the stigma and educate others to support those struggling. It is so important that we normalise these feelings, as they affect so many people during their lifetime. By encouraging others to speak out, we can create a respectful and non-judgemental atmosphere that can benefit everyone in the community.
For young women and girls, getting support for mental health issues is vital. The increasing number of women who are affected by these issues is frightening, and we need to change this. By raising our problems, worries or concerns by speaking out before they build up can support our mental well-being, promote necessary treatment and help decrease these statistics. Your voice is heard, and it is so important somebody is listening.”
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Polly for Women Cio, and/or any/all contributors to this website.
Click here to find out more about Polly in Greater Manchester.