Hidden Women: the story behind our World Mental Health Day animation
Many women are cut off from vital mental health support (Illustration: Emma Block)

As anyone who’s struggled with depression or anxiety knows it can be a very lonely experience. You feel alone not only in your own head, but also in relation to the world at large.  And if you’re a woman who is already isolated, those feelings often manifest themselves as a chasm between you –  the one in the eye of the storm – and the many people around you who seem totally “normal” and happy.

This perception only becomes more acute when you lack the language or support to articulate how you feel. Over 22% of people living in London don’t speak English as a first language, and boroughs across the capital also suffer from persistently low levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing, according to ONS data

That’s why The Maya Centre has chosen to mark World Mental Health Day today (10 October) by shining a light on the “hidden women” caught up in the current wave of mental distress exacerbated by COVID-19 and the necessity of remaining largely behind closed doors. 

The Maya Centre connects women to therapeutic services (Image: Unsplash)

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “mental health for all”, so The Maya Centre is taking this opportunity to highlight the need for greater investment in and access to mental health services that is  key to our work.

Our animation by illustrator Emma Block recognises the fact that, at times like these, women who don’t have social capital or support networks around them often feel overwhelmingly alone; even invisible. Not only are they  at higher risk of  gender-specific problems such as sexual or domestic abuse, or  income inequality, they may also struggle to ask for help, or to trust that help will be given if they do. 

These are the women that The Maya Centre is determined to reach. As a community-based charity in North London, we provide specialist psychotherapy to women on low incomes who have experienced depression, gender-based abuse or exploitation: the very same women who may have slipped through the gaps of mainstream therapeutic services.

Nearly 70% of our clients come from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee backgrounds. We run both a Black Women’s Group and an Irish Counselling Project and crucially, we offer our services in over 11 languages including English, Turkish, Polish, Albanian, Kurdish Sorani, Farsi and Bengali. This means we are better able to extend a helping hand, offering confidential and culturally sensitive support when it is most needed.

It’s not a one-way process, either. Just as therapists from The Maya Centre seek to help women left out in the cold by cultural, language or income barriers, they teach us to reflect on our own gender identities and cultures, how to discuss and share our different skills and  insights, how to reach more women  as we work towards greater women’s wellbeing, equality and voice.

World Mental Health Day reminds us to look after our own wellbeing and that of those around us. 

We as women stand together in a drive for collective empathy (Image: Unsplash)

We, as women, stand together in a global movement towards empathy, compassion and understanding. No woman will stand alone because #WeHearYou and we are #HereForYou – but we can’t do it alone. Please join us on our mission to bring therapeutic services to the women who need it most by donating here today. 

You can also help by sharing this image with your communities, friends and families, letting them know that we are here, with the aim of helping as many women as possible to access our services. You might also be in a position to lend a hand in other ways; to volunteer for The Maya Centre or to host an online fundraising event. From one woman to another, the journey to hearing and being heard starts right here.