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There are multiple factors that can lead one to developing depression, but depression currently has been shown to be significantly more prevalent among women rather than men. Why is this so? From a biological perspective, Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School suggests that, “The gender difference in depression first emerges at puberty, with studies finding higher prevalence in girls starting at age 11. Furthermore, the hormonal changes that accompany menstruation each month can bring on mood changes similar to those that occur in depression. And some women are vulnerable to developing depression after giving birth ….

or during the long transition to menopause — two other stages in a woman’s life where hormone levels fluctuate wildly. Researchers have long suspected that the fluctuations in female hormones such as estrogen may underlie women’s greater vulnerability to depression.”(Publishing, Harvard Health. “Women and Depression.” Harvard Health.)  in women’s lives, they regularly experience fluctuations in hormones that can drastically affect mood, but even though biology can play a role in the development of depression, it doesn’t seem to be the big factor that leads to higher rate of  depression amongst women versus men. Biology is one important factor to take into consideration, but the environment in which an individual grows up in can heavily affect the way they think, or feel. Being a young woman, and growing up in an environment that consistently restricts potential and talent for the sake of being “lady-like” and domestic can very negatively affect her mindset, such as reinforcing doubt and tearing down her confidence.

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And only being able to feel such symptoms internally, without any true expression of emotion, just makes the symptoms get worse and develop into full depression throughout time. For Gilman, it must’ve been especially restricting considering the time in which she grew up in. “Gender Roles in Colonial America” addresses the gender related duties that both men and women followed at the time, saying that most women were required, ”  To maintain household order – Women took care of young children, bought and prepared food, directed the activities of indentured servants or slaves, and performed all manner of other household chores…To encourage faith and moral development – Mothers were often the primary spiritual instructors in the home, especially in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century..

.To be subordinate to men – A woman’s identity and property were always connected with the men in her life…” (“Gender Roles in Colonial America .” Gender and Sexuality in Colonial America). Since these duties have been so heavily enforced at that time, a typical man does not know the stress that the domesticity put on women through these roles.

women were expected to sit by the man’s side, say nothing and do nothing unless told so. Feelings such as anger or impatience were never expected out of her and She was never aggressive. She was pure and clean, But this image of a “pure and clean” woman is not accurate or realistic.

Women struggle with anger and sadness just as any other man would, but because of a society with such strict and rigid gender roles, women like Gilman, who didn’t fit into society’s standards, were ostracized and isolated. Gilman’s forced domestic life was the root and foundation for the dissatisfaction she found in her surroundings and the development of her mental illness. The stress that she was put under in both concealing her internal struggle, and being the “nurturing woman” caused her symptoms to just get worse and worse until complete mental ruin.

As mentioned previously, treatment for mental health patients during the time of Gilman’s life was mainly focused on isolation. At the beginning of the 1900s is where doctors began to actually question why illnesses like depression and anxiety happen and studying more “effective” ways to treat a patient. This was the time when techniques such as lobotomies, and electroshock therapy were introduced, but many of these techniques fell out of favor.

As years passed, an entirely different method of treatment began to emerge in patients and at the start of the 40s, experimentation with chemicals became more prominent. Focusing on brain chemistry and studying what chemicals could help patients have relief rather than just isolate or shock them became the common practice. Pills and actual medication made its debut and this was very popular amongst the people. This was a treatment that could help people with mental illnesses get better, it doesn’t require inhumane practices, and no institutionalization is needed.

Along with the progression of treatment, the general outlook on mental illnesses began to progress as well. As mentioned before , mental illnesses were not taken very seriously during gilman’s time, or was written off as supernatural, but with more research, the help of Nellie Bly’s “Ten Days in a Madhouse”,  and even Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s own works, the general stigma against mental illness lessened.  A negative stigma against mental illnesses still exists today, but compared to the past the general public is much more open minded and accepting. Campaigns and charities such as Rethink Mental Illness now exist to spread awareness, help people who are struggling with their illness, and even pushing for mental health assistance in government policies.

more and more people today are taking the time to understand the root of illnesses like depression and anxiety, and are taking part in the effort to help the mentally ill to live happy, fulfilling lives. Along with the minimizing of the stigma for illnesses lie depression and anxiety, throughout time gender roles have been questioned too. Women now are not seen as men’s “property” anymore, they are much more independent. With the help of all the historical movements for women’s rights in the past, many women today live fulfilling lives with careers they love, outside of domesticity. But despite the fact that gender roles have lessened, they still exist today, but more so in a passive form.

Even though women are working now, and are able to support themselves, gender related setbacks are still dealt with. Jacquelynne S. Eccles in her work “Gender Roles and Women’s Achievement Related Decisions” discusses the heavily gender segregated career fields and the still existent disproportionate amount of higher success with men compared to women in the workplace. Careers like law, and engineering are two very heavily male dominated fields and Eccles summarizes that, “although there have been significant increases in the enrollment of women in law, medicine, and business schools…..women are still underrepresented in physical science and engineering programs and in all male-dominated vocational education programs. Furthermore, women are still less likely to enter and complete advanced graduate training even in such female fields as education”.

(Eccles, Jacquelynne S. “Gender Roles and Women’s Achievement-Related Decisions.”) Today women still face discrimination and sexism but n comparison to the gender roles that were enforce during Charlotte perkins gilman time, women have been given more opportunities since the past.Throughout this essay there is a clear recurring theme  of restriction and isolation amongst women and mental illness. This all comes down to women not being fully allowed to flourish as they want to, with still fighting against oppression and gender roles, and this is what charlotte perkins advocated for. Charlotte perkins gilman herself fought for feminist issues such as these, with “The Yellow Wallpaper” being the start of her first works in that subject matter. Such a claustrophobic existence in which she was forced to live with no stimulation was what brought her close to mental ruin, and then prompted her to write The Yellow Wallpaper. Following the yellow wallpaper, she expanded on her activism, publishing  Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution that.

Women and Economics describes  the relationship women have with the roles of mother and caretaker that are forced upon her, and how these roles are passed down to children, causing a continuous idea  of women as an unpaid worker that’s been taken for granted and in turn, has stunted that women’s growth in creativity and happiness. She discusses individualism in society  and how conformity hinders one’s growth saying, “It is good for the individual and for the race to have developed such a degree of passionate and permanent love as shall best promote the happiness of individuals and the reproduction of species. It is not good for the race or for the individual that this feeling should have become so intense as to override all other human faculties, to make a mock of the accumulated wisdom of the ages, the stored power of the will; to drive the individual–against his own plain conviction–into a union sure to result in evil, or to hold the individual helpless in such an evil union, when made.” (Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Women and Economics.”) in this work she advocated for both the economic independence of women and the personal independence. Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced first hand the life of a domestic woman and she found that i restricted her sense of freedom and creativity, so she advocated for more individual freedom amongst women because to her, a woman’s full independence is the only thing that could bring her freedom and make women equal to men. Breaking down the structure of the patriarchy and gender roles is key to liberation of women and true liberation provides a possible solution to the ever growing prevalence of depression amongst women.

Women who are able to live a free life however they choose, whether its  joining a career in which they love without facing restrictions on success, or living at home and expressing their emotions through hobbies, are able to fully exercise their potential as a human and as an independent individual. “The Yellow Wallpaper”By Charlotte Perkin Gilman reiterates this idea and Charlotte perkin gilman’s herself worked very hard as a writer and activist to spread this idea to the public and because of women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who found refuge through her struggle, women today are able to live their lives as free and independent as possible and work just as hard as she did to further progress liberation and spread awareness of depression amongst women.


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