New studies indicate that the pandemic has caused a crisis in mental health in women and girls. CARE spoke to 6,200 women and 4,000 men in nearly 40 countries around the world. They found 27% of women had reported increased mental health challenges. This compared to 10% of men.
They identified increased unpaid work in the home and worries about food, work and health care. Women were almost twice as likely to report that accessing quality healthcare services that they needed had been harder during the pandemic.
CARE identified three key areas of difference between the genders during the pandemic - mental health, food and jobs. 55% of women who spoke to CARE said they’d experienced some sort of income loss in relation to Covid-19. This compared to 34% of men. Job losses, which we will see many more of, trigger stress and anxiety particularly where there is less of a welfare safety net: the suicide rate in the United States roughly doubled among most age groups after the 2008 economic downturn.
Another report by Plan International found most girls and young women have experienced high levels of anxiety as a result of the crisis. Of the girls and young women surveyed, 88% had experienced some levels of anxiety ranging between high and moderate levels. Only 12 per cent of those surveyed reported not being anxious. Over 90% of girls and young women in Brazil, Egypt, Ghana and Vietnam reported being “very” or “somewhat anxious”.
Overall, the main reason cited for the anxiety among girls and young women across the 14 countries was the fear that their family or friends would get sick from the virus (40 per cent), followed by themselves falling ill from the virus (33 per cent) and the household would have less money than before (26 per cent). There is a natural increase in anxiety due to the pandemic, but when it is combined with extended periods of social isolation it can take a heavy emotional and mental toll.
This is the case for young LGBTQ+ people who are already at higher risk of mental health problems, and many of their support systems are now unavailable or inaccessible.
Since the onset of Covid-19, the volume of young people reaching out to the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation for young LGBTQI+ people, has increased significantly – at times double the normal volume.
Our response to the pandemic must foreground social solidarity to curb the virus and mental health crisis.