This week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK but one often overlooked factor that can have a profound effect on mental health is the menopause.
Whilst the menopause is a completely normal transition in a woman’s life cycle, every woman will experience the menopause differently. Some will have symptoms that are barely noticeable, whilst others will experience some significant and upsetting changes.
Recently TV Star and well-known celebrity Carol Vorderman admitted that she had suffered suicidal thoughts during the menopause. She was quoted saying that she often went to sleep and just didn’t want to wake up. Carol suffered some severe menopausal symptoms as she grieved the death of her mother during the summer of 2017.
The Connection between Menopause and Depression
While clinical trials have yet to find a definitive link between the menopause and depression, many women are experiencing severe mood swings, anxiety and poor mental health during the menopause. leading to really happy highs then some very teary lows. Fluctuating levels of oestrogen during the menopause create mood swings that can see cheerful days followed by crabby days.
Many women also experience insomnia during the menopause or regularly suffer disturbed sleep. This can result in fatigue leading to depression which leaves women struggling physically and emotionally through their menopause.
There is research that suggests women that experience severe PMS is their younger years may have more severe mood swings during the menopause. The same goes for women that struggle with postpartum depression or have a history of clinical depression.
How to Spot Depression during the Menopause
Everyone feels sad once in a while, but depression is more than that. If you are feeling sad, empty, tearful, hopeless or unloved on a regular basis, it is possible that you are experiencing depression.
There are lots of symptoms that you should be aware of relating to menopausal depression. These include a higher level of irritability, frustration or unexpected angry outbursts. You may also feel anxiety, restlessness or agitation. Some women experience feelings of guilt or worthlessness during their menopause.
A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities is another symptom of depression during the menopause. You may also have trouble concentrating or with decision making, even if the decision is only small. Some women experience memory lapses or just a real lack of energy or excitement for anything or anyone. You may find you are sleeping too little or too much and your appetite may have changed too.
The Menopause and Suicide
The Office for National Statistics state that suicide rates among women in the UK spike between the ages of 45 and 49 years old. The normal expected age range for women to transition through menopause is between 45 and 55 years old.
Meanwhile figures from The Samaritans in 2018 showed that the age range for women with the highest suicide rate per 100,000 in the UK is between 50-54 years old, again, right round the age of the menopause for many women.
Fluctuations in oestrogen levels during the perimenopause phase leading up to menopause look likely to be responsible for this spike.
Could this be the real hidden cost of the menopause?
Is Depression During The Menopause Treatable?
Many women struggling with menopausal depression seek help from their GP. All too often the default is to prescribe anti-depressants. Whilst there may well be a place for anti-depressants in certain circumstances, current research suggests that hormone replacement therapy is a more effective treatment than anti-depressants for oestrogen related reproductive depression.
Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Neuro-Linguistic Programming has also shown good results in helping menopausal women to deal with many of their symptoms, both physical and mental. Ideally find a practitioner who specialises or has a good level of experience in treating menopause related symptoms.
But most importantly, if you are struggling with poor mental health due to menopause, speak out. Often simply speaking to someone can help to put things into perspective and give reassurance that what you are thinking and feeling is normal.
It is time to get past the embarrassment around the menopause. Menopause education, awareness and training needs to be a priority. Despite the fact that every woman, if she lives long enough, will go through the menopause, in too many organisations menopause remains a taboo subject.
Business owners, managers and HR professionals need to understand and acknowledge the impact of menopause in the workplace.
For help and support in raising awareness of menopause within your organisation or help with implementing a menopause strategy within the workplace, contact us at Floresco Training and Coaching. Please don’t ignore the relevance of menopause as part of your mental health programmes.