Gender & Mental Wellbeing is the newest priority area introduced at WHISE. The area aims to improve mental wellbeing in our community in Melbourne’s Southern Metropolitan Region. As a women’s health organisation, WHISE focuses on how biological sex, gender and related social structures can have an influence on someone’s mental wellbeing.
The World Health Organization defines mental wellbeing as:
|Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. (WHO, 2022)
How WHISE Works to Improve Mental Health & Wellbeing
WHISE is committed to supporting work that implements the key principles of gender transformative practice in mental health and wellbeing programs.
|Gender transformative practice is improving outcomes for all: women, men, girls, boys and gender diverse people. It does this by examining, challenging and changing structures, norms and behaviours that reinforce gender inequality.
The definition of Wellbeing provided by the World Health Organization goes some way in defining what wellbeing is. However, definition does not consider a strong enough equity lens. It puts focus on the individual and their coping skills.
While WHISE recognises that cognition is a part of wellbeing, we focus on the evidence which points to the need to take an equity and gender justice approach to wellbeing promotion.
WHISE seeks to:
- Create partnerships with local governments and other organisations.
- Ensure health & wellbeing strategies take gendered approaches.
- Support, enable and strengthen women’s leadership and participation in public and social life at local levels.
- Integrate mental health literacy and encourage help-seeking into all health promotion work.
Why is this Work Important?
Gender inequality, together with others forms of discrimination and oppression, is recognised as one of the most influential components of mental health & wellbeing for people of all genders. Biological changes across different life stages can also play a key role in a person’s mental wellbeing. Periods of adolescence, menopause and alike each have a unique influence on women and creates their own challenges.
This reiterates the need for a sex and gendered approach.
The impact of gender on mental wellbeing for women is shown in many ways.
Gender inequality, discrimination, gender stereotyping, sexualisation, sexual harassment, family & sexual violence, disproportionate care responsibilities, economic disadvantage and marginalisation of women’s health are examples of gendered experiences that can contribute negatively to mental wellbeing.
|Harmful gender norms can also affect boys' and men’s health and wellbeing negatively, which in turn can impact women’s mental wellbeing. Specific notions of masculinity may encourage boys and men to take health risks and not seek help or health care. Such gender norms also contribute to boys and men perpetrating gendered violence. (WHO, 2023)
Overall, contributors to and experiences of poor mental wellbeing among women and girls is neglected in policy. There is limited, but emerging evidence about how to prevent poor mental health outcomes and how to promote wellbeing.
Theory of Change
The Victorian Women’s Health Services 'Theory of Change: A Gender Transformative Approach to Mental Health Promotion for Women’s Mental Health and Wellbeing' sets out a gender-transformative, evidence-based approach to women’s mental health and wellbeing. The focus is on how as a collective of agencies, we can prevent poor health outcomes and promote wellbeing.