On the morning of International Women’s Day, Piers Morgan told viewers of Good Morning Britain that he didn’t believe Meghan Markle’s admission of suicidal thoughts, something she discussed in her interview with Oprah, which had aired the night before. Morgan’s dismissal of Markle’s mental health struggles isn’t new. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all, than men are. Our hesitance to listen to women when they express concerns about their mental health, whether that be on national television or in doctors offices, can make their pain worse. Mental health issues like depression thrive on loneliness, and women are constantly being subjected to it through the willingness to ignore our stories and struggles.
The more women are turned away by medical professionals, the less opportunities there are for them to receive legitimate help. This is a mindset that has repeatedly turned deadly, especially against Black women. The racist bias that exists when they reach out to professionals for help is not just harmful, but is deadly. In 2019, MBRRACE-UK’s maternal report found that Black women are more than five times likely to die in pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum than white women.
A common conversation that occurs every time a woman speaks out as a victim of sexual assault is ‘how do we know she’s telling the truth?’ This ignores the fact that only 5% of rape accusations are false. The general public tends to lean towards the idea that surely she must be lying, of course he’s innocent. Rather than fighting for justice for the victim, people fight for the perpetrator of the crime. When this occurs, the voices within victims of sexual assault get smaller.
Why do we jump to believe a man’s innocence over a woman’s suffering?
I wonder if this is because we are accustomed to men in power, and acknowledging that they can use this for their own benefit makes us uncomfortable. Instead of addressing this, we take out our discomfort on the victims.
Every time we choose to dismiss the pain that women endure, we put them at risk of not getting help, whether that be in a mental health crisis, a medical scenario, or during and after sexual assault occurs. The question of why women are ignored is tinged with pain and ties into the lives of millions. At times, it feels like there is a never ending darkness to it.
But I believe that the answer is simple: we must listen to women, and believe them, just as we listen to and believe men.