Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Compañeros En Salud: Mental Health Services and Gender Equality

Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Compañeros En Salud: Mental Health Services and Gender Equality

Article excerpt

I HAVE LIVED IN NON-INDIGENOUS rural Chiapas in southern Mexico since 2013. working willi Compañeros En Salud (CES)-a Harvard affiliated non-profit organization lhal partnered with the Mexico's Ministry of Health lo guarantee peoples right to health care in Chiapas' Sierra Madre region.

Soon after starting its work in the region in 2011. CES staff realized that many patients came to the clinics because of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. To bring mental health care to m argin alized communities. CES launched the mental health program in 2014- which I helped design and for which I served as coordinator from 2014' to 2016.

After treating hundreds of' women with depression I became aware of the psychological consequences of' gender inequality. The narratives women told me about their illness were plagued with stories of' violence by an intimate partner (including sexual violence) (IPV), sexual abuse by a someone who is not a partner (SA). or isolation due to gender norms that hampers personal freedom and restrict women's activities to the household.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression (Kuehner 2016). Some biological differences between men and women could explain this phenomenon. For instance. biological differences in the stress response. in levels of' serotonin and its receptors in the brain-a neurotransmitter closely related to depression- and effects of' estrogen and progestin-hormones found in higher concentrations among females (Parry and Haynes 2000; Kuehner 2016). Still. other authors point to recent evidence that shows the gender gap in mood disorders stem from gender role traditionality (Seedat et al. 2009) and higher exposure to adversity among females. such as sexual abuse. and inümate-parUıer violence (Kuehner 2016; Heim et al. 2000).

Since many women and girls have only the consultation space to talk safely about their experiences. how could mental health services in primary care be leveraged as spaces of reflection on gender inequality? How could Compañeros En Salud adequately equip health service providers to adequately address acts of' violence? What, role could CES community health workers-more than a hundred women-play in promoting women's human rights? How do gender norms and roles affect psychological distress. alcohol abuse and suicide among men? Questions like these saturated my brain while I was applying for the Harvard Masters of' Medical Sciences in Global Health Delivery. …

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