Woman holding her head in distress

Sex work and mental health: Supporting your wellbeing

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been impacted, none more so than sex workers. 

In the UK, the lockdown and social-distancing measures have severely impacted the sex industry, leaving many sex workers in a vulnerable position not only financially, but also mentally.

If you’re a sex worker and are in need of support with your mental wellbeing, there are measures you can take to help manage your mental health. Read our guide below for more advice.  

 

Family or friend offering a helping hand to depressed woman at home

What is mental health? 

Mental health is the terminology used to describe a level of cognitive or emotional quality and balance of life or the absence of mental illness.

Mental health disorders are one of the leading causes of ill-health worldwide. The World Health Organisation states that 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health at one point in their lives. To help raise awareness, the World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on October 10th every year. 

Poor mental health can affect every aspect of your life, including relationships, work and your physical health, and can be impacted by internal and external factors. Recent studies have highlighted COVID-19 as being a significant external factor in impacting people’s mental wellbeing.

According to a study by mental health charity Mind, 60% of adults and 68% of young people under 25 have reported that their mental health has worsened during the lockdown.

The Centre for Mental Health believes that approximately half a million more people will experience a mental health problem over the next two years, as a result of the pandemic.

Common mental health disorders

Not only does evidence suggest that COVID has caused mental health issues in sex workers, studies also reveal that existing mental health problems are likely to be exacerbated” by issues related to the pandemic, such as anxiety over income and housing. 

According to further research, the most common mental health disorders currently experienced by FSWs (female sex workers) are:

  • Depression (usually the most common)
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While studies on the mental health of male and transgender sex workers are limited, information and resources on this subject can be found here.

Woman at home suffering from depression

Mental health causes

According to several empirical studies, there are a number of factors (both structural and sociological) that can impact the mental health of sex workers.

They include the lack of:

  • Social and peer support
  • Financial security
  • Autonomy at work 
  • Safe working conditions

Social stigmas associated with sex work have also been strongly associated with mental health illnesses in sex workers.  

Research conducted by the University of Leicester found that social stigma has averted many sex workers from accessing vital care and support.

Tips on how to improve your mental health

If you are struggling with your mental health, it is advised that you seek the support of a professional, who will help you identify the reasons behind it and the best way to treat it. However, there are some things that you can do yourself to help improve your mental wellbeing. They include:

 

    • Regular exercises: Incorporating frequent exercise can not only help you with your physical health, but is also a good way to produce endorphins and liberate toxins from your body
    • Meditation: Meditation is a great technique that can help you to keep present, aware and calm under pressure. This will help you bring tranquility to cope with the possible issues you may have
    • Balanced diet: Eating balanced meals during the day will make you less susceptible to illnesses or weakness, while helping you to maintain your energy levels
    • Prioritise your sleep time: A good night sleep is essential to keeping your mind and body relaxed and healthy
    • Look after yourself: Take time for yourself and find an activity that you enjoy (such as reading, watching movies, writing, drawing, or a specific exercise, among many possibilities)

 

Woman performing meditation and yoga for mental fitness

Mental health charities and organisations that can help

As well as the tips above, there are many mental health services that provide support to sex workers who are experiencing issues related to mental health and mental wellbeing. 

Here are just some of the reputable mental health charities and organisations (sex worker focused and general) in the UK that you can seek support and advice from:

Sex worker specific:

General:

Psychiatrist and female client in therapy session

Get mental health support today

It’s important to realise that there are many circumstances that can impact and affect a person’s mental wellbeing. 

As well as taking care of your physical health, it’s important to take care of your mental health to enable you to fulfill key functions, such as work productivity, dealing with stress effectively, and be able to form and maintain healthy relationships with others.

If you feel you need support for your mental health, get help today.

 

If you need more advice and support, here are some articles you may find helpful:

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