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When it comes to mental health, disparities between men and women are stark—among the starkest, in fact, in all public health.

The Women & Children’s Health Research Institute reports that “women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Forty-seven per cent of women are considered at high risk of developing mental health disorders, compared to 36 per cent of men.”

Similarly, Women’s College Research Institute reports that “up to 20% of Canadian women will suffer from a mental illness related to a reproductive life stage such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum or menopause.” Women may pass through each of these stages in their life, with each posing their own unique risk.

Research conducted by Oxford University Professor Daniel Freeman indicates that this difference can be attributed to “a complex mixture of factors contributing to the differences between the genders – related not only to physiological or biological factors, but society, too.”

To combat this higher incidence, robust research is needed to anticipate, prevent, and treat psychological disorders. However, this research is currently lacking.

Today, 22 per cent of Canadians find their needs for mental health services are only partially met, with 21 per cent finding their needs fully unmet. Several barriers exist to accessing care, including “cultural and language barriers, concerns about stigma, demographic inequities, a shortage of mental health care professionals and costs of services.” This is particularly the case for Indigenous women, women of colour, and financially precarious women.

The BC Women’s Health Foundation, the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, and Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital Foundation are working together to address deeper gender inequalities in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health. This includes research areas like maternal and reproductive mental health, interpersonal trauma, and child and adolescent mental health, among others. Here are some of the researchers doing this vitally important work.

Dr. Rebecca Zivanovic is a resident physician in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry, a mental health clinician, and clinical researcher. Dr. Zivanovic works primarily in the areas of concurrent disorders and reproductive mental health — with particular interest in how reproductive health, sexual health and supported parenting can be improved for those with mental health and substance use disorders.


Dr. Amber Mosewich is an associate professor at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation and a researcher with the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI). Dr. Mosewich’s research examines “stress, coping, emotion, and resultant cognitive and behavioural responses within the sport domain.” Her work shines light on the “unique needs and experiences” of women athletes, who are all-too-often left in the dark. By researching these singular experiences, Dr. Mosewich aims to make sport more accessible, allowing girls and women to reach their full potential.


Dr. Simone Vigod is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital. Dr. Vigod is a leading expert in perinatal mood disorders and has conducted some of the largest studies worldwide on maternal mental illness around the time of pregnancy. Mental illness at this life stage poses unique risks to mothers and their children at a critical juncture in both of their lives. Her research is helping raise awareness about gaps in access to specialized perinatal mental healthcare, as well as identifying vulnerable populations where these gaps are most prominent. She also designs and evaluates novel health system interventions to improve access to and uptake of care for affected women.


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