Social Perspectives in Mental Health: Developing Social Models to Understand and Work with Mental Distress

By Jerry Tew | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Women's Mental Health
Taking Inequality into Account

Jennie Williams


Introduction

This chapter takes social inequality as its starting point, and then maps some of the important implications for women's mental health. The intention is to demonstrate that it is both valid and useful to conceptualise women's mental health problems as responses to damaging experiences that are rooted in their lived experiences of inequality and abuses of power.

The continued existence of divisions in our society based on dimensions such as gender, race and class can quickly be verified by a walk down any high street or recourse to freely available government statistics (Dench et al, 2003). That these inequalities have important implications for mental health is beginning to receive recognition nationally (Department of Health, 2002, 2003) and internationally (Wetzel 2000), though people with experience of using mental health services have been telling us this for a long time (Beresford, 2000; Trivedi, 2002). While mental health providers are beginning to share this basic premise, many are unclear about the implications for their practice (Cann et al, 2001: Williams, Scott and Waterhouse, 2001b).


Characteristics of social inequality

I shall begin by directing attention to some of the defining social psychological characteristics and dynamics of inequitable social relations. This analysis is informed by the work of feminists who have written about the psychological implications of gender from an intergroup perspective

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