Anxious, Depressed, Lonely: The Reality Of Being A Woman In 2019
Bella Westaway, 26, appeared to have a picture-perfect life -- a great job, a supportive family, a good relationship -- but in reality, it was crumbling. Fast.
"I went through a really rough patch," she told 10 daily. "It was an awful time, I didn't know what was going on".
Constantly in tears and with trouble brewing at work and home, Westaway was desperate for help but unsure where to turn.
Finally, she booked an appointment to see her GP. Her diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow.
"I was diagnosed with severe depression and I thought 'holy sh*t, that's not me, I'm usually a happy and bubbly person', but it was me and it made me realise that I really needed help," she said.
"I thought my life was amazing but when I looked underneath I found the foundation elements were really bad," Westaway said admitting that she never took the time to work on her health and well-being.
"My life was falling apart".
Westaway's story is far from unique. Young women, in particular, are struggling to deal with the demands of everyday life.
According to the Jean Hailes For Women's Health annual survey released on Wednesday, more than a third of women have experienced depression (34.6 percent) or anxiety (39.4 percent).
At least 42 percent of the 10,000 respondents reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past month. Women aged between 18 and 35, like Westaway, reported the highest levels of anxiety.
But it's not just depression and anxiety that is hampering the welfare of the nation's young women.
While it's argued that millennials are among the most connected people on the planet, the survey shows that they are, in fact, the loneliest. Almost 40 percent reported feelings of loneliness every week.
For older women, body image is a key issue. More than 50 percent of respondents aged between 36 and 65 perceive themselves as overweight or obese.
While the numbers are astounding, Chris Enright, Chief Operating Officer and Head Of Education at Jean Hailes for Women's Health, said there is no way of knowing whether the rate of anxiety, depression and loneliness are increasing, or if women are simply feeling more comfortable opening up, but said that social media appeared to be a driving force.
"Social media can be pinpointed as a cause of anxiety for women but it also drives conversation and encourages women to talk about their mental health so it's a bit of a double-edged sword," Enright told 10 daily.
She explained that young women are often juggling the pressures of work, relationships and children while trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations that stem from social media.
The survey found that one in six women could not afford to see a health professional when they needed one, with young women finding it the most difficult.
Similarly, one in six felt they had experienced discrimination in accessing healthcare.
For Westaway, seeking help was "terrifying", and "scary", but she took the plunge, started to see a councillor and gradually, began to feel herself again.
"We’ve done so much work to reduce stigma around mental health issues, the systems are there, but I think it's still quite difficult to reach out," she said.
"But if you can, talk to someone -- a mum, a best friend, anyone that you know cares about you because it can be quite isolating.
"The most support I've had is when I opened up and spoke to someone".
She explained that three years on she is back to her happy, bubbly self but there are still tough times.
"It’s a long process and not every day is amazing," she said.
"If you're feeling in any way not happy or anxious, just turn social media off. It can be really hard to be looking at everyone's glamorous and seemingly perfect life when yours is feeling shit so switch off and spend time with the people you love".