Mental health is a critical part of overall health and is connected to so many other aspects of well being – from physical health and longevity, to relationships and intimacy. In order to provide the best care possible, it is necessary to consider the connection between physical and mental health and to support research that explores multiple dimensions of well being.
Anyone can struggle with mental health and a growing body of research is shining light on the challenges faced by specific groups, including women. For example, women are significantly more likely than men to experience certain mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, eating and panic disorders, as well as loneliness and social isolation. Women are also more likely to face gender-based discrimination, sexual violence, socio-economic inequity, and the mental health challenges associated with these realities. Pregnancy, motherhood and other aspects of women’s physiology can also have profound emotional and mental health implications.
Here are just a few examples of researchers from across Canada whose outstanding work is addressing various aspects of women’s mental health and well being.
The research of Dr. Dawn Kingston, RN, PhD, focuses on improving mental healthcare and well being by developing and evaluating approaches for screening and treating women who struggle with depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Dr. Dawn Kingston holds the Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Perinatal Mental Health, and is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary. Dr. Kingston also holds a New Investigator Award from Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Dr. Kingston and her team are leading the field in using e-technology for screening and therapy so that women can get help whenever they need it, wherever they are. They created the HOPE Platform, a free mental health and well being app for women that provides support in the form of resources and assessments related to pregnancy, menopause, relationships, grief and loss.
Dr. Karen Rivera, MD FRCPC, is a psychiatrist with the Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital, a centre of excellence and a national leader in the assessment and treatment of women with psychiatric illnesses during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Dr. Rivera is part of a team of specialized, multidisciplinary clinicians and researchers who work with women and their families to deal with mental health challenges, disorders or emotional difficulties related to the reproductive life cycle.
Dr. Lori Brotto, PhD, R PSYCH, is a professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a registered psychologist, and the executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute of BC located at BC Women’s Hospital. Dr. Brotto is the director of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory where her research primarily focuses on developing and testing psychological and mindfulness-based interventions for women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties and women with chronic genital pain.
Dr. Simone Vigod, MD, MSC, FRCPC, 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. Dr. Vigod’s 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.