International Women’s Day (8 March 2024) is not only a day to celebrate and empower women, but it recognises the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It shows how women have grown within society and demonstrates a call to action towards equality.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we build a better environment and when women themselves are inspired to be included, there is a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

So, how does this relate to PAPYRUS? International Women’s Day not only celebrates the achievements of women worldwide, it also reflects on the challenges and barriers that women still face, including in mental health and suicide prevention. It’s vital that we open up the conversation and ensure women feel included and listened to when talking about their struggles. Keeping the conversation open around suicide prevention could be lifesaving.

According to Mind, research shows that even though men are three times more likely to die by suicide, women are in fact more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide. It is important to remember that suicide is a complex issue which will be associated with many different factors, including (but not limited to): mental health conditions, social isolation, discrimination, background, and life experiences.

Perinatal wellbeing and suicide

The perinatal phase plays a significant role in women struggling with suicidal thoughts. This phase lasts from the start of pregnancy all the way through to a year after birth and, according to MBRRACE-UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in women between six weeks to a year post-partum. Women can often feel isolated, anxious, and alone during their pregnancy and especially after the birth of the child, spending time alone during the maternity leave period.

The NCT website  states that women who are on maternity leave and away from the workplace often worry that they will be overlooked by their manager or side-lined by colleagues because they won’t be around. With research showing that women also worry that their replacement will be better for the job or more popular than them in the workplace.

Some women may also be apprehensive that while on maternity leave, they will lose their skills and struggle to get back up to speed when, or if, they return to work. They may also feel anxious that their career progression will suffer if they return to work on reduced hours. Staying in touch with your employer and colleagues is an important way to mitigate some of these concerns; many women use their ‘keeping in touch’ days to reconnect and talk with colleagues and managers to keep in the loop with all things work related so that they remain included within the team.

Gender-based violence and suicide

Another at risk group is women who are affected by gender-based violence. In 2023, Samaritans published a report highlighting that one in four women suffered a form of gender-based violence in their lifetime. Research carried out by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance shows that women who are abused by their partner are three times more likely to make an attempt on their life than those who are not. Women who are subject to gender-based violence often spend time alone and lack being included in friendship groups or with family. This shows the importance of this year’s International Women’s Day theme: Inspire Inclusion.

Discrimination and suicide

Gender based discrimination also plays a huge part in women suffering with mental health illnesses and thoughts of suicide. Comparisons between men and women may obscure increased risk among certain groups – for example, some of the sharpest rises in suicide rates in recent years have been among young women according to Samaritans.

Suicide and thoughts of suicide affect people of all genders, but due to gender discrimination, the way we approach accessing support and advice can be very different and even though women are more likely to report suicidal ideation it is crucial that we work together as a society to have conversations and inspire inclusion where we can.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or you are concerned for someone who may be, our helpline, HOPELINE247, is here to offer free, confidential advice and support.

Call: 0800 068 4141

Text: 88247

Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

We are always open.

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