Today the world marks International Widows' Day on the theme "Invisible Women, Invisible Problems". Widow's Day is an awareness day observed across the globe to discuss the hardships that widows face when their husbands die. Mind 'N' Health Foundation commemorates this day with United Nations and acknowledges that widows are invisible to policymakers when they draw out national policies to address the problems of citizens.
Research suggest an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty. Traditionally, Widows are considered vulnerable in the society because the loss of significant half puts them as a significant risk of physical and mental health problems and inevitably dying (Widowhood effect). There is 66% risk of death for a widow in the first three months of losing a partner. They get involved in the battle of survival, and they can do little in terms of significant tasks. The United Nations Organization discourages any such expression. Instead, it is argued that widows can do a lot for their nations if they have improved well-being; their energy and potentials are steered. Therefore, it is essential to liberate them from the threat of basic needs scarcity to perform productive tasks.
Mind 'N' Health Foundation, a mental health based Non-Governmental Organization in Ghana, reflects on the theme by highlighting the 'invisible women, invisible Problems'. The 'invisible women, invisible Problems' begins after the loss of a spouse. The death of a spouse is a significant life event associated with a high prevalence of common mental disorders, including anxiety and depressive disorders, as common invisible problems of widows. In addition, widowhood is associated with a multitude of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, including psychological distress. However, a minority of Widows may require specialist/professional interventions, such as those who have previously had mental health challenges, suppressed their grief, or are suffering from a complicated and traumatic bereavement such as sudden death, especially suicide. Without support, it is possible to end up depressed (or even break down much later). Doctors often advise one or two courses of antidepressants at this point to enable the bereaved to get through their challenging time. Still, these are not in themselves an indication of clinical depression. Prevalence rates of clinical depression within the first year of widowhood are estimated between 15% to 30% across studies, though sub-clinical elevation in depressive symptoms is even more common.
Inevitably, being widowed increases your risk of poor mental health. For example in some communities in Ghana, widows are usually isolated, referred to as witches, being ask to sleep in same room with the dead body, accused of killing their husbands and many others resulting in mental health conditions. Still, the impact depends on many factors such as cause of death, personality, finances, high demands, and relationship to the deceased. In addition, those widowed young often find themselves isolated in a society that does not understand what they are going through and expects them to recover quickly, making matters worse.
Grieving is natural, and longer-term mental health problems could be prevented if those who have suffered a significant loss were better helped to grieve. Timely support protects against the risk of poor mental health following bereavement. If our society were to understand the impact of grief better and be more geared up to support widows, then depression may be preventable.
On this special Day, we continue to celebrate widows internationally for their resilience. But, together, the world will be a better place if we can all consider:
- Avoid stigmatizing widows and show them love in any means possible
- Challenge cultural and social norms that violates the fundamental human rights of widows
- Search for widows in your neighborhood and support them as much as you can.
- Demonstrate interest in widows' work by reading articles about the challenges of widows and sharing with friends and family to understand widows' plight better.
- Spread positive news about the contributions of widows in society through any communication channels, e.g. Social media, Electronic media and or press media
- Disseminate relevant quotes on International Widows Day
Things widows can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss
- Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor – you could also contact a support organization such as Mind 'N' Health Foundation Ghana
- Try ways that make you feel happier , which are simple lifestyle changes to help you feel more in control and able to cope
- Find out about how to get to sleep if you're struggling to sleep
- Consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other.
- Listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
International Widow's Day Hashtags
Follow and promote Social Media trends like
Author: Pascal Landindome Navelle
Mind 'N' Health Foundation Ghana
Email: [email protected]
Mind 'N' Health Foundation is a registered non-profit mental health company that provides mental health advocacy, research, and consultancy. As an organization, is our mandate to support the mental health of widows through advocacy.
References for further Reading
- United Nations - https://www.un.org/en/observances/widows-day
- Sasson, I. and Umberson, D.J., 2014. Widowhood and depression: New light on gender differences, selection, and psychological adjustment. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69(1), pp.135-145.
- Carr, D. and Utz, R., 2001. Late-life widowhood in the United States: New directions in research and theory. Ageing International, 27(1), pp.65-88.
- Wilcox, S., Evenson, K.R., Aragaki, A., Wassertheil-Smoller, S., Mouton, C.P. and Loevinger, B.L., 2003. The effects of widowhood on physical and mental health, health behaviors, and health outcomes: The Women's Health Initiative. Health Psychology, 22(5), p.513.
- Devine, A., Kermode, M., Chandra, P. and Herrman, H., 2007. A participatory intervention to improve the mental health of widows of injecting drug users in north-east India as a strategy for HIV prevention. BMC international health and human rights, 7(1), pp.1-8.