Sometimes referred to as ‘The Six Equality Strands’, these are the characteristics which are protected by law under The Equalities Act of 2010. Despite this, we still have discrimination and this can have a huge impact on mental health and the treatment of mental ill health.
Mental Health and Sexuality
LGBTIQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer or questioning.
The LGBTIQ+ communities face discrimination, stigma, bullying, hate crimes and social isolation. Because of this, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse are more common.
It’s quite frightening to think that up until as recently as 1990 homosexuality was classed as a mental illness by the Word Health Organisation. So it’s not surprising that even now one in eight LGBTIQ+ people report feeling discriminated against when accessing health services.
Transsexualism has only just been removed from the ICD11 (international classification of diseases) which is good news for the transgendered community as it is no longer viewed as a mental health illness.
Mental Health and Gender
There are many differences in the way that men and women experience mental distress.
Men are more likely to die by suicide than women and women are more likely to experience depression. There are a variety of complex reasons for this so I’ve listed a few below.
Men are more likely to suffer from substance abuse which increases the risk for suicide. They’re also less emotionally literate than women and will bottle things up.
Women are the largest single group of people affected by PTSD because of the massive amount of sexual violence they are victims of.
Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression because of patriarchal society but also because of gender bias in treatment. I.e. they are more likely to be diagnosed with depression even when scoring the same as men on standardised tests.
Mental Health, Race and Ethnicity
Institutional racism exists in society which negatively impacts the mental health of those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and the help that they receive.
Mental Health and Age
As people age, their role in society changes and so does their health. Friends and relatives may pass away, children leave home, there may be money worries and they may feel isolated or not useful anymore.
Suicide is more prevalent in men aged 44-49 and depression is more prevalent in older people.
Among younger people, self-harm and eating disorders are more common. Schizophrenia is more common in young people aged 16-25.
Mental Health and Disability
Physical disability can have a negative impact on someone’s mental health. They may feel isolated because they cannot participate with other people in physical activities such as sport. There may be problems accessing buildings or transport. And for those with learning disabilities, there may also be problems with communication and coping skills. A person with a mental health condition that significantly impacts their life for 12 months or more is considered a disability and so that means they are protected from discrimination by law.
Mental Health and Religion or Belief
Having a religion, belief or spiritual practice is actually a protective factor for many. People who have a strong spiritual belief are less likely to die by suicide, suffer from depression or abuse substances.
There can be negative effects though, including feeling guilt and the need for forgiveness. There can be stigma in expressing poor mental health in many religious communities. A few religious groups have extreme ideologies and if you suffer from poor mental health, you’re more vulnerable to their extremism and more likely to become a victim of radicalisation.