Women's Mental Health

 

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Diverse women

The Women’s Mental Health Program was created out of an important need to address the unique way women experience mental illness, treatment, recovery, and care. Women are faced with inequalities, and we understand that addressing these issues is imperative, not only for women, but for the health of our community. We promote mental health and well-being for all women by ensuring women’s experiences with the mental health system reflects their unique biological, psychological and social needs/roles. Through capacity building, peer support, and research we offer groups, events, education, and resources all created with women in mind.  

Women’s Resource Centre

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 supports to women with mental illness and their family members. The centre serves as a hub for education, peer and family support groups, as well as a safer space for women receiving care at The Royal. Often patients will stop by the centre to spend time with visiting children, to simply relax, or utilize centre resources (computers, telephone, reading materials, etc.).The Women’s Resource Centre is located on the second floor of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (1145 Carling Ave.), in the Winter Garden (room. 2103). If you have any questions about the Women’s Resource Centre, please contact michelle.jackson-brown@theroyal.ca

Capacity building

Capacity building refers to activities that increase the ability of service providers to address the unique mental health needs of women. We provide education and training to service providers internal and external to The Royal. Some of the topics we address includes mental health and trauma, gender identity and expression, responding to disclosures of sexual assault, and mental health first aid, all through a feminine lens.   

Through our capacity building activities, we aim to bridge gaps in knowledge and practice that exist between mental health services and women’s services in the community.

Peer support

Peer support is a vital component of the services offered by Women’s Mental Health at The Royal. Our peer facilitators and volunteers offer a unique form of support to clients by engaging with the shared lived experience they hold in common.

Peer support facilitators and volunteers in the Women’s Mental Health Program are women who have experienced mental illness, treatment, and recovery. They have completed training in WRAP facilitation, and are registered volunteers. 

We offer many groups through a peer support model, check out our current and upcoming Groups & Events page to learn more. 

Birth, parenting, and mental wellness 

Caring for oneself, and a child or children requires a lot of time and energy. Through the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership Program, the Women’s Mental Health Program in partnership with the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre offers groups and resources to support women and caregivers in their parenting roles. Our programs support pregnant and post-partum individuals and families with infants through our peer support groups and drop-ins in accessing health and community services, mental health supports, and the opportunity to connect with other families. Some of our groups include Perinatal Wellness, Perinatal Journaling, and a Parent Drop-In.

Check out our Birth, Parenting & Mental Wellness page to learn more about our groups and to access our perinatal mental health video series.

Gender-based violence/Violence against Women

Women (Cis and Trans) as well as non-binary people are subject to the bulk of gender- based violence,  which can range from intimidation to physical violence, and even death or femicide. This has various health and mental health consequences that are in many ways unique to women/ non-binary people and can also negatively impact the mental health of their children.

Within the Women’s Mental Health Program we aim to improve service provision for women/ non-binary survivors of violence through clinical education and capacity building within the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and mental health sector at large. At the same time we work with community VAW (Violence Against Women) sector agencies to better support the mental health of their clients; this has manifested primarily through the completion of a mental health needs assessment of women in VAW shelters in 2019, and through the creation of a online mental health check-in group for women in VAW shelters. 

You can also view this video from the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women and The Royal

Groups

Groups and events are a big part of the day to day offerings of the Women’s Mental Health Program. Keep an eye on the webpage to learn of upcoming events, and groups. We have both open and drop-in style groups, running all year, and closed groups with capacity limits, running multiple times per year. Our groups are offered virtually, and when able to do so, we also build in times to meet and socialize in person. 

Current group offerings: 

Women’s Wellness Group (Virtual) 

Women’s Wellness Group is a virtual group focusing on women’s health and wellness. The group is recovery oriented, and offers a safe space for women to check in with one another and build community. At times guest speakers join to discuss specific topics connected to women’s health and wellness. This group is open, and operates in a drop in style. Tools needed include access to the internet/Zoom. 

Date: Mondays, 10–11 a.m.
Facilitators: Glenda O’Hara, and Alexis Milne 

To REGISTER, email Glenda.ohara@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required)

Journaling as a Wellness Tool Group (Virtual) 

Journaling as a Wellness Tool is a fun and interactive group for women to express themselves through the act of journaling. Over nine weeks, women will learn the benefits of journaling, and be lead through topics including making connections, emotional vocabulary, letter writing, lists, gratitude and intentions, self-esteem journaling, creative journaling and evaluation. Writing assignments are given each week, and sharing is optional. Tools needed include paper/journal, writing implement, emailed handouts, and Zoom access. Space is limited to sixteen people, but the group is held several times per year. 

Date: Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.–noon.
Facilitators: Anita Manley, and KJ Thomas. 

To REGISTER, email kj.thomas@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required).

Healing Through Art (HEART) Group (Virtual)

Heart is a 10 week expressive arts group that creates a safe space for women to experience their creative side, and express their emotions through the practice of making art. No previous skills required, just a wiliness to explore healing through art. Tools needed for the art projects are provided, and delivery is arranged prior to the group beginning. Participants will also need access to the internet/Zoom. Space is limited to ten people, but will be offered again in the fall. 

Date: Thursdays, 1–3 p.m. 
Facilitators: Nancy Solange Dean and Kim

To register or for more information email nancysolange@practicemakingart.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required). 

Gender-based Violence Survivor's Mental Health Check-in Group (Virtual)

This is a virtual, weekly mental health check-in group for women and non-binary people who have experienced gender-based violence / violence against women - primarily partner violence. We do not offer direct intervention or specific safety planning, but rather provide a space to discuss the state of our mental health, what is helping us cope with difficulties, and how we plan to take care of ourselves going forward. This group is open, and operates as a drop-in style.  

Date: Tuesdays 1–2 p.m. 
Facilitators: Emma Slaney Gose, KJ Thomas, and Eugenia Luanda

To register contact kj.thomas@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required) 

Perinatal Wellness Group (Virtual)

The Perinatal Wellness Group is a free virtual drop-in support group for individuals who are pregnant and post-partum. The focus of the group is on mental health, perinatal and parenting experiences, and maintaining wellness. The group is committed to providing a safe, non-judgemental space where individuals can receive support and connect with others in the community. It is an open group, and ongoing, so people may drop in as they are able. Tools needed will include access to the internet/Zoom.

Date: Wednesdays from 2–3 p.m., excluding holidays

To register email michelle.jackson-brown@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required).

Perinatal Journaling as a Wellness Tool Group

Perinatal Journaling as a Wellness Tool group is a safe space for women to express themselves through the act of journaling- with emphasis on the perinatal journey. Over nine weeks, women will learn the benefits of journaling, as well as be lead through topics including making connections, emotional vocabulary, letter writing, lists, gratitude and intentions, self-esteem journaling, creative journaling and evaluation. Writing assignments are given each week, and sharing is optional. Tools needed include paper/journal, writing implement, emailed handouts, and Zoom access.  Space is limited to sixteen people, but the group is held several times per year. 

Date: Tuesdays, 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Facilitators: Anita Manley, and Michelle Jackson-Brown 

To register contact michelle.jackson-brown@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required) 

Parenting Drop-in (In person)

The Parenting Drop-in offers parents with infants (ages 0-1) access to health and social supports and the opportunity to socialize with other families. Supports available at the drop in include infant weight checks, feeding support, mental health support, and the opportunity to ask questions and access information about health and community supports and services. The drop in is facilitated by a social worker from The Royal, and a midwife from the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre.

Date: Wednesdays 10-11:30 a.m. at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre (2260 Walkley Rd., Ottawa)

No pre-registration required. For more info contact: Michelle.Jackson-Brown@theroyal.ca.

Women’s Education Series

The Women’s Education Series is a 1.5 hour group with varying guest speakers joining to talk about women’s issues, health care, and wellness. Presenters share a one hour presentation, followed by 30 minutes of open discussion, questions, and answers. These groups are drop in style, and offered throughout the year. For more information about the group, or if you are interested in being a guest speaker, please contact kj.thomas@theroyal.ca.

Date: Email for upcoming dates.
Facilitator: KJ Thomas

To register contact kj.thomas@theroyal.ca (name, phone number, and address will be required)

BIPOC Journaling Group

Women’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) Journaling group is a peer support led virtual group for BIPOC women, and those who identify as women, to express themselves through the act of journaling. Over nine weeks, women will learn the benefits of journaling, as well as be lead through varying topics- all with BIPOC issues in mind. Writing assignments are given each week, and sharing is optional. Tools needed include paper/journal, writing implement, emailed handouts, and Zoom access.  Space is limited to 16 per group, however the group is held several times per year.

Facilitators: Sharon Roberts and Queen Maria Sabourin

For registration and information about upcoming dates, email kj.thomas@theroyal.ca.

BIPOC Wellness Group

Women's BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) Wellness Drop In, is a virtual weekly drop in group. This is an open group, and folks are welcome to stop in as it makes sense for them. Being led by Peer facilitators, BIPOC women will come together to do check ins with each other about how their mental health is, and how their week is going. Common themes include support of one another, building commonalities, sharing of resources, and safe space discussions.

Facilitators: Sharon Roberts, and Queen Maria Sabourin
Runs every Wednesday from noon-1 p.m. throughout the year. 

For information and registration email kj.thomas@theroyal.ca.

Mad Art Group

Mad Art is a virtual drop in group that runs for 10 weeks, several times throughout the year. Women are free to drop in as it makes sense for them, so the participants can change from week to week. In the Mad Art program, mental health and the daily world is explored and expressed through no stress art. Various mediums are used (things that most folks have on hand in their homes), and no experience is necessary.

Facilitators: Nancy Rice and Sheila Hamilton

For information on upcoming dates and registration email kj.thomas@theroyal.ca.

Events

Shopper’s Run for Women

The Royal has partnered with Shoppers Run for Women. You can walk, job, dance, or run your way to more resources for women’s mental health. Head to runforwomen.ca to find out more. 

Date: June 2, 2024
Location: LeBreton Flats Park

Virtual: 5K/10K Walk/Run & 1K Little Steps
In-Person with switch to Virtual: 5k Walk/Run, 10K run &1K Little Steps

Click here to sign up for this year's run.

Women In Mind Conference

Each year the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal hosts the Women In Mind Conference. A place where people can come together to learn about women’s mental health, and steps we can take in practices and communities to enhance the wellbeing of all women. Join us in November for our Women In Mind Conference, details to follow.  

Resources

Information and Resources

https://www.theroyal.ca/information-and-practice-resources

Ottawa Based Services and Resources

https://www.theroyal.ca/ottawa-based-services-and-resources

W.R.A.P. Information

https://copelandcenter.com/ 

Living Healthy with Chronic Conditions

https://www.livinghealthychamplain.ca/

Research

Over the past several months Women’s Mental Health at The Royal, with the support of Women’s Xchange at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, has been working on a project to develop a mental health report card on the mental health status of women staying in Violence Against Women (VAW) sector shelters.

Click to see an abstract offering preliminary results.

Meet the team

KJ Thomas, MSW, RSW
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KJ Thomas

KJ Thomas, MSW, RSW, is a registered social worker within the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal. KJ has spent the last 15 years focusing on community mental health. She is also the familiar facilitator seen in The Royal Ottawa Family Groups, and author of the Family Voice Bulletin. KJ has dedicated her career to supporting clients, and families through personal, and community support using her formalized professional training, as well as lived experience.    

Michelle Jackson-Brown, MSW
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Michelle Jackson-Brown

Michelle is the Social Worker/Peer Support Worker for the Women's Mental Health Program. Michelle has over 10 years experience working with The Royal's Community Mental Health Program. Outside of the Royal, Michelle has dedicated time to volunteering with various peer initiatives and supporting organizations in the areas of mental health substance use, and perinatal health. In addition, she has worked with several women-centred agencies across Ottawa including Cornerstone Housing for Women, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and the YSB Young Women's Shelter. 

Emma Slaney Gose, RSW
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Emma Slaney-Gose

Emma Slaney Gose has been a registered social worker with Women's Mental Health (WMH) at The Royal since 2018. She coordinates the Violence Against Women (VAW) Shelter mental health check-in groups, and has been extensively involved in WMH's VAW programming and research. Prior to this role, Emma worked extensively as a frontline service provider in the homeless sector. She is also pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Ottawa.

Anita Manley
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Anita Manley

Anita Manley has 10 years of peer facilitation experience in Women's Mental Health. She co-founded and co-facilitates "Journaling as a Wellness Tool", and co-facilitated WRAP for several years. Anita is also the first client representative on The Board of Trustees at The Royal.

Glenda O’Hara
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Glenda O'Hara

Glenda O’Hara volunteers as a peer facilitator in the Women’s Mental Health Program. She runs a weekly Women’s Wellness Support Group, and takes part in Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and journaling groups. Glenda also volunteers as chair of the Client Advisory Council and a visitor with residents of The Royal’s long term care facility. In 2020, Glenda was honoured to be one of The Royal’s Inspiration Award winners.

Alexis Milne
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Alexis Milne

Alexis Milne is a volunteer, and co-facilitator with the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal. Alexis brings her lived experience and support to wellness recovery groups, workshops, and peer support. 

Nancy Solange Dean
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Nancy Solange-Dean

Nancy Solange Dean is a volunteer facilitator at The Royal, running the HEART group. She is an Expressive Arts Practitioner who believes in everyone’s innate creative power.  She finds joy in witnessing the shift in people as they embrace their creative side. Lover of all things spontaneous!

Sharon Roberts
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Sharon Roberts

Sharon Roberts has been working as a peer supporter for the past eight years in various places such as Mood Disorders Ottawa and Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa. Her experience includes facilitating recovery programs such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Tell Your Story Workshop, peer support groups and serving on their boards. Sharron continues to impact her community facilitating BIPOC groups with the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal.

María Cristina Sabourin-Jovel
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Maria Cristina Sabourin-Jovel

María Cristina Sabourin-Jovel, better known by her pen name “Queen María,” is extremely passionate about social justice and mental health accessibility for all. She co-facilitates BIPOC groups with the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal. Her love affair with peer support programs started during the pandemic as they became an integral part of her healing journey and a powerful tool to deal with racial trauma. Her experience as a facilitator has been very humbling and rich.

Nancy Rice
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Nancy Rice

Nancy Rice is a volunteer facilitator with the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal. Nancy brings her lived mental health experience, passion, and personal growth to a multitude of programs that she supports, facilitates, and participates in. Nancy is a facilitator of Mad Art, a group created for women to express their mental health and daily world through the practice of no-stress art.

Sheila Hamilton
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Sheila Hamilton

Sheila Hamilton is a volunteer facilitator with the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal. She has been facilitating peer groups since 2019. She brings her lived experience and her passion for journaling, art, and helps others express and explore their mental health. Sheila is a facilitator of Mad Art, a group created for women to express their mental health and daily world through the practice of no-stress art.

Debbie McFarlane
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Debbie McFarlane

Debbie McFarlane coordinates the Suits Me Program. She has been volunteering for over 28 years at The Royal in many areas including working in different shops, and on special events. Debbie is dedicated to assisting individuals in their recovery journey. In 2014, she was gifted an Inspiration Award for her journey in mental health and recovery.

 

If you are interested in signing up for a group, please contact:

Name
KJ Thomas
Title
Social Worker, Women's Mental Health Program
Name
Michelle Jackson-Brown
Title
Social Worker, Women's Mental Health Program (Perinatal)

Shirley E. Greenberg Resource Centre for Women

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 supports to women with mental illness and their family members. The centre serves as a hub for education, peer and family support groups, as well as a safer space for women receiving care at The Royal. Often patients will stop by the centre to spend time with visiting children, to simply relax, or utilize centre resources (computers, telephone, reading materials, etc.).

The Women’s Resource Centre is located on the second floor of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (1145 Carling Ave.), in the Winter Garden (room. 2103).