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Kansas City woman uses her personal struggle with mental health to help others heal

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Posted at 7:47 PM, May 16, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Mental Health Foundation revealed girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 are almost three times more likely to experience a common mental health issue than boys and men of the same ages.

Dr. Sarah Getch with Kansas City University said disparities start manifesting around adolescence.

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When we are children, those numbers are relatively stable and the same between boys and girls," Dr. Getch said. "But when we hit that adolescence time period, that is when we start to see that women or young girls are experiencing much more anxiety and depression. And so, there’s something happening there in that time frame, whether it is the environment that they are in, or whether it is related to their biological makeup. Certainly there are some differences in how those things are being experienced."

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Dr. Getch says most clinical trials for mental health have been done on white males, so experts need more and better data.

That's why race, ethnicity, religion, age — all of these need to be represented in trials to develop better treatment options.

Dr. Getch said there are several reasons why women are more likely to experience mental health illnesses, but perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because of the mental load of being caretakers.

“Managing multiple roles and then also managing their own expectations around those roles can be really difficult,” said Dr. Getch said.

Stressful and high-stakes life events like childbirth and postpartum depression can pose unique mental health challenges for women.

She says one of the biggest consequences with postpartum depression is that it can impact the potential relationship between the mother and child, leading to long-term relational issues.

This is why Dr. Getch encourages expectant mothers to seek an OBGYN who understands the importance of mental check-ins during pregnancy and is well-versed in available, safe medications should they need them. After childbirth, it is important to monitor emotional and behavioral changes. Seek professional help if depressive episodes linger for more than two weeks.

Without intervention, many women can start to become less productive, experience isolation, struggle with concentration or have difficulty sleeping.

Long-term stress can affect their physical health as well, and increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases.

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In the middle of a fibromyalgia flare up, it’s really overwhelming. It feels nonstop, it feels never-ending,” said Stephanie Zamora.

Zamora has been struggling with mental health since she was 12-years-old.

By the time she turned 19, the stress manifested physically as an autoimmune disease.

She believes women try to carry the weight of the world and even from an early age, try to be everything to everyone and up neglecting themselves.

I think women learn how to keep themselves safe by being quiet and not asking for what they want," Zamora said. "And so that shows up in relationships, it shows up in working relationships. For so many women, we get our value from how much we’re able to care for other people. How well your family is doing is a reflection of who you are.”

Yoga, therapy and supplements only went so far before another life change would set her back again.

Every time that I would get to another phase of my life, whether it was having my own baby, being a parent, getting a dream job, it was like each time I would level up and I took that next phase and next phase in life," Zamora said. "I felt the stress and then my body would collapse back down. I was snapping, I was angry, I was crying all the time.”

After years of coping, she now helps other people heal through breath work and sound healing.

She is hopeful for a future where women can feel safe within their own bodies and feel empowered to use their voice.

“I’m really hopeful as we learn new things about things like EMDR and somatic experiencing, breath work, and sound healing and all of these other ways of healing,” said Zamora. “I’m passionate about being able to take people out of that fight-or-flight response and allow themselves to really experience what it feels like to truly be alive.”