‘Are you on your period?
It’s a common put-down many of us have heard, often used to undermine women if we dare to express anger or upset, trivialising our feelings.
So entrenched is the phrase in our collective vocabulary, that women are even asked this by mental health professionals when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Alarming new data from the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) reveals one in five women have been asked if they’re on their period while in crisis at a mental health facility.
It begs the question: if the answer had been ‘yes’, would they have been treated differently – and not taken seriously?
Almost a firth (19%) of young women aged between 18-34 surveyed have felt either dismissed or ‘invisible’ and now, CALM is launching a new national campaign to address the rising rates of suicide in young women under 25.
According to recent ONS data, the statistics are climbing – one woman under the age of 25 dies by suicide every two days – and CALM’s research shows how often women are being dismissed.
Stereotypes around women can affect whether someone wants to speak up – and how they’re received if they do.
Almost a quarter have not discussed mental health issues with someone for fear of being seen as ‘attention seeking’, and a third worry they will be seen as dramatic or too emotional.
Among those who have spoken up, 27% were told it could be down to hormones and a third were asked if they were ‘overthinking things’.
Simon Gunning, CALM CEO, said: ‘Our research shows that even when they do speak up, young women’s feelings and symptoms are frequently dismissed and ignored – often disregarded as over-emotional, hormonal or attention-seeking. These damaging preconceptions are leaving young women unheard and unsupported and lives are at risk like never before.
‘We must take immediate action and strive to overcome the stigma that hinders women from receiving the recognition they deserve during times of crisis. By providing them with the necessary support, we can ensure that no woman has to face her struggles alone.’
Leading factors contributing to mental health crises in women aged 18-34 can often involve body image (44%) loneliness (39%), relationship issues (32%), money worries (33%) and comparing themselves to others on social media (26%).
Questions around whether they’re on their period simply delay access to the help that they need.
How to help someone who’s feeling suicidal
Ask if they are feeling suicidal: If you’re unsure, ask. It’ll probably come as a shock if someone tells you they’re thinking of killing themselves. But people find it a relief when someone helps them to open up and speak directly about some pretty scary feelings.
Find a space to chat: If someone opens up to you, find somewhere you can chat. Somewhere you can both talk and listen. Find a space where you both feel comfortable and go from there. Don’t delay too long or put it off – it might not be an easy conversation, but it could be a life-saving one.
Let them talk: It takes a huge amount of guts to open up about suicidal thoughts. So once someone has, give them time to talk about how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. Try not to cut them off or tell them how they should feel. You don’t have to have all the answers. Being there and listening is enough.
Take them seriously: It can be a natural reaction to play down something scary. It’s important to take someone seriously when they open up. Let them know you hear them, that you understand how much they’re struggling, and that they will get through this.
Leave your judgement at the door: It’s natural for your head to flood with opinions and emotions when someone opens up to you. The most important thing is to listen and avoid judgement about right and wrong. Those conversations are for another time
Get professional help: If someone’s having suicidal thoughts, then they need help. Get them in touch with their GP, contact a mental health service, or call the CALM helpline.
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected].
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
If you’re a young person, or concerned about a young person, you can also contact PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide UK. Their HOPELINK digital support platform is open 24/7, or you can call 0800 068 4141, text 07860039967 or email: [email protected] between the hours of 9am and midnight.
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