What is it?

The Women’s Mental Health Program is an innovative program at The Royal that was created out of a need to address the unique way women experience mental illness because of differences in biology and social roles.

The program ensures that women’s experiences with the mental health system will result in improved access to care that incorporates their unique biological, psychological and social needs. The program promotes mental health and well being for all women, improving their mental health across their life span by ensuring that their unique and changing biological, social and cultural needs are embedded into mental health care and research.

The underlying philosophy that drives the program is the belief that women can overcome the challenges of mental illness if they receive specialized support, care and guidance that meets their unique needs. Our program integrates the four pillars of care, advocacy, research and education related to women’s mental health needs into The Royal’s existing clinical programs.

A cornerstone of the program is the Shirley E. Greenberg Resource Centre for Women, which was created as the result of a generous donation from Shirley E. Greenberg. The resource centre’s main focus is to provide information about available treatments and supports to women with mental illness and their family members. In addition, the centre serves as a hub for education, peer and family support groups, and healthy living strategies. The centre is located on the second floor, in the Winter Garden.

Treatments

The Women’s Mental Health Program promotes a women-centred approach to mental health care by ensuring client care considers women’s unique biological, psychological and social needs

The program focuses on:

  • Providing resources and support specific to women’s needs;
  • Understanding and improving how women experience treatments for mental illness and integrating the female perspective into clinical care throughout The Royal and the region;
  • Supporting research that specifically examines women’s mental health;
  • Providing education to promote early detection of mental illness, guidance in seeking care, accessible resources, coping skills, etc.
  • Educating caregivers, the community, and women everywhere about the unique ways in which mental illness affects women and their families.

The Women’s Mental Health Program places a strong emphasis on public education by offering a wide array of public lectures, education campaigns and research into women’s mental health. Professional devlopment opportunities are offered for service providers in the region, including family doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, counselors and more.

Workshops at the Shirley E. Greenberg Resource Centre for Women are open to any women currently receiving treatment at The Royal, either as an in-patient or out-patient. Topics have included money management, nutrition, sexuality, awakening your creative spirit, mindfulness, working with emotions and wellness recovery action plan (WRAP).

For a schedule of upcoming events, current clients of The Royal can speak with their care team or check the bulletin board inside the resource centre, located on the second floor, in the Winter Garden.

Treatment is ‘women specific’

Best practices with respect to treatment of mental illness have historically been based on a body of research that was done without paying attention to the gender of research subjects. The case for gender-based care, now offered through the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal, points to sound reasons for mental health programs focused on women. A report: Women, Mental Health and Mental Illness and Addiction in Canada: An Overview, concludes that: “Women’s and men’s health and health needs are distinct both because of differences in their bodies and because of differences in how women and men live, work, and play, as well as how they were raised as children.” The Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal recognizes and addresses those differences.

Mental health programs that focus specifically on women are gaining wide acceptance among mental health professionals. To substantiate a need for such programming, one need only to look at some of the most striking differences between men and women both in their biological and social perspectives:

Women experience mental illness differently than men

Certain mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are far more prevalent in women than in men. Schizophrenia follows a different course in women. Women experience 90 percent of eating disorders – a grim statistic because eating disorders lead to death more often than any other mental illness.

Women and men are physiologically different

Women’s unique circumstances have a bearing on mental health treatments and their effectiveness. Pregnancy and other reproductive transitions are experienced by women exclusively, and traumas such as rape are far more likely to befall women than men. Women often respond differently to pharmacological interventions than men do, and female life-cycle events such as menarche, pregnancy and menopause can significantly impact both the prevalence and expression of mental illness.

Women’s traditional social responsibilities can impact or be impacted by mental illness

In social terms women are substantially more likely to be caregivers of children or adults than men are. The unique stresses that this role entails can – and do – contribute to mental health disorders. The challenge of balancing the symptoms of a severe mental illness and parenting a child or caring for an elderly family member can be overwhelming.

The bottom line is that gender affects a person’s mental health profile. Paying attention to the differences between men and women’s biology and psychology is the basis of gender-based care and treatment at The Royal.

For more information about the Women’s Mental Health Program and the Shirley E. Greenberg Resource Centre for Women, please call 613.722.6521 ext. 6879.

Resources

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Suits Me: An Initiative of Women’s Mental Health at The Royal
Suits Me provides women, including clients of The Royal, with professional clothing and personal development opportunities. Join us for free self-care, learning & shopping workshops for women. Each workshop is followed by a visit to the clothing boutique for something that suits you! Visit the Suits Me page for more details.

Check out our support groups for women:

Links for women who use mental health services in Ottawa

Mental Health

Community Health Centres

Addiction Services

Shelters (for abused women and their children)

Family Service Centres

Parenting

Social Services

Homeless Shelter

Information for Health Care Providers

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