Penny Halliday


This essay argues that by labelling British women’s mental health distress and treatment in terms of a purely medical model, underlying contributory social structures and phenomena such as gendered roles, ethnicity and poverty, have largely been ignored by the (male dominated) psychiatric profession. This labelling is historically rooted in the pathologisation of the feminine condition; therefore, women’s mental ill health is substantially a social construct and a product of a patriarchal society. To fully explore a way through mental health distress - a term used by MIND to emphasise the inorganic origins of many mental health problems - labels need to be unmasked and emphasis placed upon the socio-economic contexts of women’s lives. This is not to deny that men suffer from mental health distress; women and men’s patterns of mental health problems differ and the reasons for this also require discussion. All strands of feminism can touch upon women’s mental health. However, because of the socially constructed nature of mental health distress, particular attention should be paid to socialist and radical feminists’ theoretical approaches and how they can offer alleviation through translation into policy formulation and practical action.

Author Biography

Penny Halliday joined Oxford Brookes University in September 2003 as a second year student and is studying for a BA degree in Combined Studies. The course allows students to design their courses around a theme, and Penny chose the theme ‘A Study of the Role of Women.’ She is currently in her third year and hopes to graduate in the summer.