Every year on 10 October, the world observes World Mental Health Day. It is a reminder of how important it is to recognise mental health through the lens of universal human rights. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says 45 per cent of Australia’s women have experienced poor mental health some point in their lifetime.

In this blog, Women’s Health Goulbourn North East will explore the significance of World Mental Health Day, focusing on the unique challenges that the 12.6 million women in Australia face regarding their mental wellbeing.

Societal expectations: Societal expectations and gender roles can place pressure on women. The expectations to excel in both career and family life, often referred to as the “double burden,” can lead to stress, anxiety and burnout. Women must be supported without unrealistic expectations, on an individual, community and societal level. We can only achieve this by fostering gender equality and valuing care.

Gender-based violence: Gender-based violence, including domestic abuse and sexual harassment, impacts thousands of Australian women a year. The trauma resulting from such experiences can have severe and long-lasting mental health repercussions. We need to approach this issue from all angles, from increasing and broadening prevention efforts to properly resourcing the health and community sectors to respond effectively. The impacts of gender-based violence on mental health are compounded by the myriad ripples in a victim-survivor’s life and that of family and friends, with issues like women’s homelessness, poverty and substance abuse directly linked to gender-based violence.

Intersecting identities: Women are not a homogenous group. Women and gender diverse people who identify as LGBTIQA+ face additional factors impacting mental health, like prejudice and increased risk of violence. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that people within the LGBTIQA+ community are at higher risk of experiencing mental ill-health, suicidality and self-harm in comparison to the general public.

The factors which determine good mental health for women may differ according to culture, socioeconomic factors and levels of societal discrimination. Meaningfully addressing the legacy and ongoing impacts of Colonisation on women and gender diverse people from First Nations communities, for example is a crucial component to fostering good mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

The myriad factors impacting mental health for women and gender diverse people of intersecting identities makes it crucial that we apply an intersectional approach to our efforts to improve the mental health system and mental health outcomes, with social equity key to embedding tailored support for women and gender-diverse people experiencing a range of demographic and socio-economic factors which contribute to their experience of mental health and the mental health system.

Hormonal fluctuations: Women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives, from puberty to pregnancy, postpartum and menopause. These hormonal changes can have a profound impact on mood and mental health. Conditions like premenstrual syndrome (PMS), postpartum depression and perimenopausal mood disorders are common examples. It is essential to recognise these fluctuations as legitimate health concerns and provide support and understanding during these times. A gender lens must be embedded throughout the medical system and society as a whole, to address the historical and contemporary lack of research, training and value placed on sexual and reproductive health throughout a woman’s lifetime.

Chronic illnesses: Women are often more likely to be affected by chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases, which can have secondary effects on mental health. With nearly 50 per cent of the women in Australia living with one or more chronic illnesses, the emotional toll of dealing with these ongoing health challenges can be overwhelming, highlighting the need for holistic healthcare that addresses both physical and mental aspects of wellness.


Body image and self-esteem: Society’s obsession with appearance and ‘beauty standards’ can contribute to body image issues and low self-esteem in women. These factors can lead to conditions like eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Previous research suggests that 80 per cent of Australian women are dissatisfied with their bodies to some degree. Challenging harmful gender norms which objectify and minimise women and girls to their appearance is essential to combating these issues.

How we can help women

To address the unique challenges that women face regarding their mental wellbeing, individuals, communities and policy makers can take several steps.

At the individual level, it is crucial for women to be afforded the space to prioritise self-care and seek professional help when needed, recognising that mental health is as important as physical health. However, it is important to acknowledge that many barriers exist to help-seeking and self-care through social inequity and inadequate services, even when an individual is aware of deteriorating mental health and willing to address it.

Communities can create support networks, offering spaces for women to share their experiences and seek emotional support, reducing feelings of isolation. Additionally, community-based organisations can arrange workshops and educational programs that promote good mental health and community connection. Advocacy from community leaders, representatives and organisations for increased resources and supports on behalf of marginalised community members is essential to creating an infrastructure of care which prioritises mental health and wellbeing.

On the policy front, governments should allocate resources to improve access to mental health services, especially for marginalised communities. They can also implement policies that challenge societal expectations, address gender-based violence, and promote body positivity in schools and workplaces.

Ultimately, a collective effort from individuals, communities and policy makers is essential to empower women’s mental wellbeing and create a more mentally healthy society in Australia and beyond.

Need help?

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

For emergencies, call 000