Promoting positive change for women's mental health

May 2, 2024

For plan members, sponsors and administrators

In alignment with our Impact Agenda and our commitment to sustained health and well-being, we’re proud to support the work of the Women’s Health Research Cluster (WHRC).

While we use the terms “women” and “men” in this article, we recognize that these terms are not inclusive of all gender identities and that the health issues addressed in the article may be relevant to individuals across the gender spectrum.

Raising awareness about the gender gap in mental health research and treatment

To address the longstanding gender gap in mental health research and treatment, womenmindTM has emerged as a community of philanthropists and scientists dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. Driven by a shared vision, this initiative aims to put the unique needs and experiences of women at the forefront of mental health research.

"Women's health research has, for centuries, been undervalued and underfunded,” says Dr. Liisa Galea, inaugural Treliving Family Chair in Women's Mental Health, Scientific Lead for womenmind, and Leader of the Women’s Health Research Cluster. “Women and gender-diverse people have different physiology and experiences that uniquely impact their health and well-being. It is crucial to address these inequalities in both research and healthcare."

Launched in 2020, womenmind focuses on developing innovative solutions to improve prevention, policy, and treatment of mental health conditions among women and girls. By raising funds and providing support for new and emerging women scientists, it aims to advance women-centered research and careers in science.

womenmind's objectives revolve around increasing awareness of the gender gap in the sciences, advancing women in the sciences, and promoting research into women's mental health. Dr. Galea explains, "We actively build awareness of the gender gap in mental health research through workshops and articles."

Supporting the careers of women in the sciences

To advance women in the sciences, womenmind has funded leadership awards and launched a mentorship program for early-, mid-, and senior-career women scientists. Dr. Galea emphasizes the importance of these types of programs, stating, "Mentorship is critical to improving outcomes and supporting more women to remain in science and pursue leadership roles."

The initiative actively supports research in women's mental health by funding innovative projects and providing postdoctoral fellowships. Dr. Galea highlights the recruitment of women's mental health experts, such as herself and Dr. Daisy Singla, to address specific mental health issues affecting women.

Allied with womenmind, the Women's Health Research Cluster (WHRC) is an international network of multidisciplinary professionals that also plays a vital role in shaping a different future for women and girls. Established in 2019, the WHRC empowers researchers, clinicians, and community partners to advance the health outcomes of girls and women around the globe. Through research, capacity development, knowledge translation, and advocacy, the WHRC generates dialogue and drives equity in policy and investment in women's health research.

“Women's health is more than reproductive health. It encompasses all aspects of a women’s body,” says Dr. Galea. “Yet, for too long, women’s health has been limited to the boundaries of a bikini.”

The WHRC takes an integrated health approach, recognizing that women's health encompasses all aspects of the body. By incorporating intersectionality, it strives to facilitate research that resonates with the diverse experiences of women and girls worldwide, fostering an inclusive and effective approach to health equity.

Shaping the future of healthcare for women and girls

Mental health challenges can crop up at any age, depending on the nature of the mental illness. Dr. Galea highlights the importance of understanding these differences, stating, "For each mental health disorder, there are different sex/gender and age profiles that deserve attention. This knowledge informs treatment strategies based on age and sex."

The WHRC aims to shape the future of healthcare by creating a more equitable landscape that fully understands the unique needs of women. Dr. Galea emphasizes, "Investing in women's health will have far-reaching implications for improving health for all."

Community partnerships and collaborations with organizations and corporations are fundamental to the success of womenmind and the WHRC. These alliances enhance reach and impact, ensuring initiatives are community-driven. Dr. Galea acknowledges the importance of support from organizations, such as Manulife, in sustaining operations and driving transformative projects.

womenmind and the WHRC are driving change for women's mental health by working to close the gender gap in research and treatment. Through innovative initiatives, they aim to improve health outcomes for women and girls around the world. With the support of philanthropists, scientists, and community partners, womenmind is making significant strides towards a more equitable and inclusive healthcare system.

"By forging partnerships and aligning our goals, we combine our efforts to build a healthier and more equitable world together."

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