OPINION: “Girls were more than twice as likely than boys to contact helplines about mental health concerns”

By Stephanie Konadu-Acheampong

This opinion piece is part of a series written by our #Youth members, for our Voices of Children & Young People Around the World report.

 

Gendered Mental Health Concerns 

In reading the Global Voices Data Report, I was struck by the prevalence of mental health concerns globallyMental health was one of only two reasons for contact that occurred in all 5 world regions; it was also the most common reason for contact: 26.5% of all reported contacts related to mental health. It’s evident that mental health is quite an important global issue; however, girls were more than twice as likely than boys to contact helplines about mental health concerns. While this is likely the fact that girls tend to contact helplines more overall, the discrepancy between gendered contacts for other reasons (i.e physical health and sexuality) didn’t appear quite as stark. Are girls suffering mental health issues more than boys around the world?  

In the US, initially, it appears this is the case; around 70% more females are diagnosed with mental illnesses than males. However, cultural factors lie beneath the surface. American boys are often discouraged from displaying their emotions—unless its anger; help-seeking carries the implication of weakness. As masculinity is associated with strength, boys are encouraged to bottle their emotions up—implicitly and explicitly. The repercussions, however, are deadly. Despite higher prevalence of psychological diagnoses in American women, around three times more men die by suicide every year. Given this context, I found it concerning that this trend occurred across the world and I wonder what the implications of these results are elsewhere; what cultural norms and expectations or other underpinnings may be at work in other world regions?  

 

Stephanie Konadu-Acheampong is a member of Child Helpline International’s #Youth advisory council.