Autonomy and Marriage: Impact on Mental health. A study on local Indian women in India and Indian immigrant women in Norway Oslo
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This thesis aims to understand the factors that contribute to poor mental health among local Indian women living in India and Indian immigrant women living in Norway. By focusing on the interplay of marriage and autonomy in Indian society, I aim to understand how the women experience autonomy, and the impact of it, on mental health. Moreover, since these women come from a collectivist society with traditionally entrenched gender roles and high emphasis on relatedness, we also consider how they negotiate restricted autonomy. Although the two groups of women come from different educational, family backgrounds and live in different societies now, they are related through shared bonds of gender and experiences of belonging to a patriarchal society. By taking them simultaneously, I aim to enrich reflections about men-tal health issues in lives of Indian women. In addition to this, the study aims to understand what coping strategies women adopt when experiencing mental health difficulties and why. Furthermore, owing to the gap between prevalence of mental health problems and professional help seeking among Indian women, it becomes imperative to understand these women’s perception towards professional help seek-ing and thus this study aims to understand the same. I used Postcolonial feminist perspective to look at gender, ethnicity, cultural, social-economic-historical-political factors and their relationship with mental well-being while ad-dressing all aims of the study. I conducted semi structured interviews with 11 Indian women in total to collect data for the study. The findings of the study illustrate that autonomy was restricted in different ways and extents for both local and Indian immigrant women and had significant impact on their mental health. Many factors influenced their autonomy such as marriage, multiple identities of being daugh-ter, wife and daughter-in-law, living in joint family, conflict between autonomy and related-ness and simply being a woman. Some specific factors attributed to poor mental health of Indian immigrant women such as perceived trade-off between acculturation and passing tradi-tional values among children, the struggle to take care of parents in old age and isolation upon moving to Norway. Many coping strategies were hence adopted by the women such as confid-ing in family, friends and support from social network along with resilience and adaptability. Perceptions about mental health problems, perceived response of society and experience with mental health problems were varied and found to influence attitudes towards professional help seeking by local and Indian immigrant participants. Furthermore, the need for mental health literacy and awareness about possible debilitating side of mental health problems was found to be significant in influencing attitudes towards professional help seeking. On a concluding note, this thesis is particularly relevant for health professionals in India and Norway to gain a better understanding of mental health related needs of Indian women. It highlights some commonly shared experiences of poor mental health, coping and resilience between the women along with specific subjective experiences. It also discusses some specific suggestions for both local and Indian women for improvement of mental health.
Master i International Social Welfare and Health Policy