Women’s Wellness Week is a step, but not a solution

On the 18 September, Spabreaks launched Women’s Wellness Week, a week dedicated to focusing on emotional and physical health for women.

The week was created to “highlight and encourage discussion around issues affecting women’s physical and emotional wellbeing”, with the aim of encouraging women to prioritise their health by taking a little time each day to “do something for themselves.”

However, this ‘wellness week’ has raised criticisms and accusations of ulterior motives. While some see Women’s Wellness Week as following in the footsteps of International Women’s Day which on March 8 provides a platform for womens’ rights and issues, and has also garnered some criticisms.

It has been seen as a way to placate women and avoid the everyday focus needed to move towards equality and other factors which could significantly improve women’s everyday mental health.

In the UK, women earn, on average, 9.4 per cent less than men, with much larger discrepancies in certain parts of the country and across intersections of race.

With 44 per cent of women in the UK believing their gender has hindered their career, and 36 per cent experiencing gender prejudice in the workplace, it seems this is a very present issue that we need to focus on more consistently in order to improve women’s health.

However, with one in four people experiencing mental health disorders each year such as depression, anxiety or work induced stress, surely any focus on mental health must be constructive.

While we may see a spa break or a massage as something trivial, doing very little to actually alleviate these mental illnesses, what women’s wellness week can do is work towards validating the struggle of people who live with mental illnesses.

As mental health is often still stigmatised today, any open discussion or direct focus on mental health can help detatch some of this stigma, and possibly encourage those to seek any help they may need.

If we were being offered a simple ultimatum between either a wellness week or a more consistent, everyday focus on mental health, arguing for the latter would be the obvious choice.

However, introducing this space for self care could be a move we need to make towards achieving a more systemic focus on women’s health and care. However, it would also be fair to raise the question of why there is not a week dedicated to male wellbeing and mental health.

Though women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, 80 per cent of suicides are male, making it the largest cause of death for men under 45 in the UK.

In a survey of 2000 men done by YouGov, the majority said they would not seek help due to the societal expectations of what it means to be masculine. What this demonstrates is that while society has started to acknowledge mental ill health as a pressing issue, the stigma surrounding it is still prevalent.

If this Women’s Wellness Week can provide a safe space for women to discuss mental health, or help validate the importance of mental health and self care, then it is difficult to see a clear problem with it.
While a year long stress on mental health is an ideal to work towards, wellness week could be a start to opening up discussions and providing safe spaces for those with mental ill health.

 

Image: Women’s Health Initiative

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