APA Updates Mental Health Guidelines To Reflect How Much Being A Woman Sucks

by Christina Marfice
Tara Moore/Getty

All women are finally being seen by the APA’s new guidelines for mental healthcare

Mental healthcare is vitally important for all people. But people of different sexes and genders face challenges that can have different effects on their mental health. Women and girls might require different kinds of care than men and boys, and the American Psychological Association’s new treatment recommendations reflect that better than they ever have before.

The APA just released its new guidelines for treating women and girls, and they finally take into consideration the challenges that women tend to face more than men, like role discrimination, sexual violence, bias and oppression. What’s really groundbreaking about the new guidelines is that they don’t ignore the need to recognize women’s strength and resilience in the face of a world where we exist in constant danger, and how that constant stress and fear can play a role in the mental healthcare we need.

“Women suffering from psychological problems need treatment, but that has to be in a more affirmative, more empowering way, and it has to be effective,” Lillian Comas-Diaz, a George Washington University School of Medicine clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and co-chair of the working group that revised the guidelines, said.

The new guidelines are also a lot more inclusive than they’ve ever been before. For example, the last version of the treatment guidelines only mentioned “transgender individuals” one time, to say that the recommendations didn’t apply to them. This updated version, however, addresses the mental healthcare needs of trans women in a number of areas, and points out the fact that trans women are at a much higher risk of violence than cisgender women. The new guidelines also include treatment recommendations for female veterans, elderly women, female immigrants and refugees and women with disabilities.

The new APA guidelines fit perfectly into the #MeToo age, too. They address the fact that women face a higher likelihood of sexual abuse or violence during their lives, and that the mental health effects of that abuse or violence can be exacerbated by the difficulties we face in getting justice or treatment after becoming victims. And while there has been a long history of treating these kinds of issues as things that are women’s fault, the new APA guidelines look at them as the result of generations of gendered injustice — another factor that needs to be considered when getting women and girls the best possible mental healthcare.

“In the medical establishment, historically, there has been a view of females as less than, as victims, as helpless,” Comas-Diaz said. “We in psychology also need to add to that a perspective that has to do with the social forces and the history and legacy of discrimination and oppression.”

While general recommendations say guidelines like these ones should be updated every 10 years, this is the first time they’ve been revised since 2007. If you ask us, this is way overdue. But the new guidelines will do much to advance healthcare for all women and girls, and that’s what matters.