One of the benefits of my ongoing work as a mental health practitioner is that I never lose sight of the problems caused by the ongoing oppression of women. For this reason, I was particularly excited to learn about a new initiative coming out of Canada called womenmind. Launched by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada, womenmind is being supported by two gifts totaling $6.5 million, and aims to “put a defined focus on closing the gender gap in mental health.”
With $5-million in funding from Sandi and Jim Treliving and family and another $1.5-million donation from Hudson’s Bay Foundation, CAMH is creating womenmind for the purpose of “fuel[ing] philanthropy focused on accelerating discovery related to improving the mental health of girls and women and supporting female-identifying researchers to become leaders in the sciences.”
“Health research has overlooked the biological and socially determined issues unique to women,” says Dr. Catherine Zahn, President & CEO, CAMH, which is the largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital in Canada, and a leading research hub for the field. Providing clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH works to “transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction.”
“At CAMH, we have worked hard toward gender parity in recruiting, retaining and supporting our women scientists and research that addresses mental illness and its manifestations in women. We are leading important projects focused on women’s mental health, and today, 40 per cent of our researchers are women,” says Zahn.
Sandi Treviling described the $5 million donation to create womenmind as “a gift from our family to women everywhere.”
“womenmind is an opportunity for us to bring women in philanthropy together through a shared vision, lift up the voices of women living with mental illness and advance women in science. There’s no better place to do all of that than at CAMH,” says Treviling.
An additional $1.5 million in funding is coming from the foundation for department store chain Hudson’s Bay. “Hudson’s Bay Foundation is committed to supporting mental health programs across Canada,” says Iain Nairn, President, Hudson’s Bay. “Through our $1.5-million donation, we will work to scale the womenmind initiative nationally through a series of events in our stores, designed to spark conversation about closing the gender gaps in mental health.”
In the first five years, womenmind plans to recruit new female scientists, provide early career start-up support, hold research and seed grant competitions, offer mentoring programs for women in science, and host an annual global research symposium, according to a press release announcing the launch.
As we have seen across medicine, more disciplines are beginning to recognize their significant deficits regarding both research on and professional inclusion of women. The launch of womenmind signifies the growing awareness of gender as a key factor in social experience, as well as a heightened awareness of the need for mental health leadership to be more inclusive. With this new initiative from CAMH, hopefully we will gain understanding about women’s lived experiences and provide more women with emotional support to live healthier lives, while also elevating women’s leadership in science.
“We are so grateful to Sandi Treliving and the Treliving Family for their support of womenmind, as well as Hudson’s Bay Foundation for their partnership,” says Deborah Gillis, President & CEO, CAMH Foundation. “There is no better time than now to build a community of passionate CAMH supporters who will amplify women’s mental health and elevate women in science.”