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Opportunity for Ireland to lead the way on Women’s Mental Health

Published: Monday, March 06, 2017

• Depression and anxiety are more than twice as prevalent amongst women than men. 

• 1 in 5 women experience some form of domestic violence in Ireland which has huge implications for women’s mental and physical health. 
• Ireland has the highest rate for child suicide of girls in Europe.
• A significant number of women attending Obstetric Services experience depression during pregnancy, around 16%, and higher than the EU average. 
• International evidence shows that the lack of access to abortion services causes mental health difficulties in women. It has been shown that the risk of suicide during pregnancy reduces when abortion services are made available.

Delegates from across the globe will come together today for the opening ceremony of Rights, Resilience and Recovery, the 7th World Congress on Women’s Mental Health.  The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Trinity College Dublin are co-hosting the event with the International Association of Women’s Mental Health (IAWMH), running from the 6 – 9 March in the RDS on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March. http://www.iawmh2017.org/

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry, Monash Univerity, Australia; and President-Elect of the International Association of Women’s Mental Health said, “Worldwide, women experience significantly more depression and anxiety than men as well as having different presentations of a number of mental health conditions. Women as individuals, as mothers, as part of the workforce, as life partners and as care givers for children, the elderly and the sick -  can experience a number of devastating mental illnesses and need better tailored treatment strategies. Prevention of mental ill health in women is critical and relies on stopping violence against women, ensuring a variety of human rights and promoting cultures of respect and safety.”

“This year we are thrilled to be holding the Congress in Dublin and the local organisers from the NCWI and Trinity combine political advocacy for women with a clinical focus on women's mental health to deliver a Congress that promises to leave a lasting legacy that will enhance the endeavours of all workers in the field of mental health as well as providing better outcomes for those who need mental health services.”

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI believes that it is particularly pertinent that the Conference is being held in Dublin this year. “Globally there is a new appreciation of the depth of inequalities experienced by women and the detrimental impact this is having on women’s mental health. And also here in Ireland there is a very welcome, greater focus on mental health. The Congress is a unique opportunity for this country to recognise the need not only for improved and targeted mental health services for women but also the need to tackle the inequalities that affect women’s mental health. For example, women are more likely to parent alone, to be engaged in low paid precarious work, to be the victim of domestic or sexual abuse and to be the main provider of unpaid care work. And all of these structural inequalities impact women’s health and mental well-being. If we want to achieve better health outcomes for women, we will have to address issues such as the lack of access to abortion, high levels of domestic and sexual violence and the fact that austerity measures over the past years particularly affected women. NWCI is calling on the Minister for Health to announce the development of a women’s health action plan that would outline clear commitments to addressing women’s mental health at different life stages.”

Professor Veronica O’Keane, Trinity College Dublin, said “It is exciting to be hosting the World Congress here in Dublin as it gives us a chance to learn from experts and best practice from around the world. Sadly Ireland will be exceptional among the visiting countries in having such poorly developed perinatal psychiatry services. This is also the case for reproductive choices, the absence of which may lead to long lasting mental health problems. While we have lots of anecdotal evidence here in Ireland that women require specific mental health services at different life stages, there has been very little research or discussion of this need. The Congress will help to raise awareness about researching the specific mental health needs of women and investing in vital, targeted mental health services that are so important to the mental health of the nation. For example my own research into antenatal depression indicates an urgent need to provide early mental health screening during pregnancy in maternity hospitals and services. Perinatal Psychiatry services need to be provided for women with established severe mental illness who are at the greatest risk of having poor pregnancy outcomes because of mental health problems.”

Keynote speakers for the opening ceremony today in the RDS, 4 – 6 pm, include:
• Simon Harris, Minister for Health
• Jayashri Kulkarni – Convenor, Congress Co-Chair
• Jaha Dukureh, FGM survivor and global activist
• Professor Helen Herrman, President of the World Psychiatric Association
• Orla O’Connor, Director, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Co-Chair
• Professor Veronica O’Keane, Trinity College, Co-Chair 
• Rita Ann Higgins, Poet

Over the next four days, the Congress will be a unique networking and learning opportunity for professionals of various disciplines to meet and discuss best practices and innovative developments to improve women’s mental health across the life cycle. It will be a unique networking and learning opportunity for professionals of various disciplines to meet and discuss best practices and innovative developments to improve women’s mental health across the life cycle. The Congress will explore the link between health inequalities and women’s mental health and make strong links to economic independence for women as a prerequisite to mental health and wellbeing. There will be a high level of participation from advocacy groups and NGOs who will highlight the importance of societal factors in affecting women’s mental health at different life stages. See programme at http://www.iawmh2017.org/

For further information or if you are interested in receiving a press pass or in interviewing one of the speakers, please contact Silke Paasche, Tel. 085 858 9104 or Niamh O’Carroll Tel. 087 6286171

Notes for Editors

In March 2015, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) made a successful bid to host the 2017 Congress in Dublin in partnership with the International Association of Women’s Mental Health and Conference Partners. The Congress will create a space for a rights based and evidence based exploration of women’s mental health in Ireland and internationally. The theme of the Congress is “Rights, Resilience, Recovery.”

The World Congress will be held in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) on 6-9 March 2017, to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th. Over 800 delegates are expected to attend, from across the globe. Congress Website: www.iawmh2017.org.