Women's History Month: Celebrating Women's Contributions to Mental Health
It is Women's History Month and we here at OK Positive would like to celebrate that by acknowledging the significant contributions women have made to the field of mental health. From advocacy to research, women have played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of mental health and improving access to high-quality mental health care. In this blog we will highlight just a few of the incredible women who have broken down barriers and pushed the boundaries of what we know about mental health. Join us in celebrating their accomplishments and remembering the legacies they have left for future generations.
Nellie Bly made history as a pioneering investigative journalist. She began her career writing for the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Lonely Orphan Girl’. Nellie’s articles argued for more opportunities for women in the workforce and more favorable divorce laws for women. Then in 1887, she went undercover in a mental institution to expose the mistreatment of patients. Her reporting shed light on the appalling conditions in mental hospitals and helped to spark a wave of reform. Without her brave and determined efforts, the mental health care system would likely not be what it is today.
Dr. Marie Jahoda was a social psychologist whose groundbreaking research focused on the effects of unemployment on mental health. She challenged the prevailing view during the 1920’s and 1930’s that blamed individuals for their own unemployment, and instead emphasized the social and economic factors that contribute to the problem. Her research highlighted the damaging effects of unemployment on self-esteem, identity, and mental health, and paved the way for a new understanding of the social determinants of mental health. Dr. Jahoda also worked to break down gender barriers in academia and helped pave the way for future generations of women in the field. Her contributions continue to shape our understanding of the intersection of mental health and social justice.
Karen Horney was a pioneering psychoanalyst who challenged traditional Freudian theories on female psychology. She believed that women's feelings of inferiority were not innate, but rather a result of societal pressures and gender roles. Her work emphasized the importance of cultural and social factors in shaping personality and mental health, and she is widely regarded as one of the most important feminist thinkers in the field of psychology. Despite facing significant backlash from the male-dominated psychoanalytic community during her lifetime, Horney's ideas have had a lasting impact on the field of mental health and continue to inspire researchers and clinicians today.
Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark was a pioneering psychologist and civil rights activist who made significant contributions to the field of mental health. Along with her husband, Kenneth Clark, she conducted the famous "doll studies," which showed that Black children preferred white dolls over Black dolls, suggesting the internalization of racial prejudice and discrimination at a young age. The studies had a significant impact on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1954, which ended racial segregation in American schools. Dr. Clark went on to become the first Black woman to earn a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and founded the Northside Center for Child Development, which provided mental health services to underserved communities in Harlem. Her advocacy and research helped to promote racial equality in education and mental health care.
As we celebrate Women's History Month, it's important to recognize modern-day women who have made significant contributions to the field of mental health. Dr. Jessica Taylor is one such woman - a psychologist, author, and activist who challenges harmful myths about gender and sexuality. Her books, "Why Women are Blamed for Everything" and "Sexy But Psycho" emphasize the ways societal attitudes perpetuate abuse and harm. Through her work, Dr. Taylor has made significant contributions to understanding and addressing the complex issues that impact mental health, particularly among survivors of trauma and abuse. Her feminist approach to psychology and her tireless advocacy for survivors make her a shining example of the vital role women play in shaping our understanding of trauma and promoting healing.
From Marie Jahoda to Dr. Jessica Taylor, these women have made significant contributions to our understanding of mental health and how to support those in need. At OK Positive we are proud to be a predominantly women-led team, and we believe in celebrating and supporting all women in this field. Let's honor the legacies of these incredible women and continue to work towards a world where everyone has access to high-quality mental health care.