Mental health professionals require better training to respond to women’s mental health needs. Most training programs presently do not require coverage of gender issues nor do they even attempt to address how women’s experiences are different from men’s. Women’s biological, psychological and social needs are not part of the curriculum in professional schools, and most therapy and research are premised on male experience. Mental health research by women receives only 6.05% of all mental health research funds in Canada and only 0.42% of all health research funds.
The dearth of research and the lack of funding mean that very little has been published on many important issues that relate to the mental health of women. For example, medical and psychological journals contain few articles on the mental health ramifications of wife battering and sexual abuse. Informed by a commitment to social change and community action which over time will contribute to the emotional strength and autonomy of women as individuals and in society, the National Board of CMHA endorses the following recommendations.
- The academic community must encourage and support more qualitative research on women’s issues.
- Women must be included as subjects in representative proportions if the research topic addresses non-gender specific issues.
- More women should sit on grant review committees, and research on issues affecting women should be given higher priority in funding decisions.
- Women should be more involved in the selection of research topics, the design of research protocols, and the interpretation of research findings.
- Research and the codes of ethics of the various disciplines and professions must be re-examined more closely to eliminate systemic biases against women and women’s experience.
- Training programs for all mental health professionals must include courses about the sociocultural impact of social inequality on women’s physical health and mental health.