World Congress on Women’s Mental Health

Recently, Zainab Ashraf attended the World Congress on Women’s Mental Health on behalf of YWCA Ireland. Below are her reflections on her experience:

I was fortunate enough to come across information online about the 7th World Congress for the International Association of Women’s Mental Health (IAWMH). The association comes together every two years and, to my delight, this year they were having their conference in Dublin. Through YWCA Ireland, I had the opportunity to go for the full conference; four full days dedicated to exploring women’s mental health through discussions, research and knowledge sharing from all corners of the world.

The congress theme was ‘rights, resilience and recovery’ which encompassed the many issues that face women’s mental health. I immersed myself in as many workshops, seminars and research presentations as I could, each one as inspiring as the next. They topics covered were as varied as the countries and individuals that presented them: motherhood, trauma, gender-based violence, cultural sexism & immigration. The topics varied but what ran through each one was the strength, passion and perseverance of the professionals for helping women, in a way that acknowledges women’s physiology and cultural pressures while taking an overall holistic approach.

Working as a counsellor with women who are survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual abuse, I see little acknowledgement given in the mental health field to the need for gender-sensitive care. This absence often leaves women feeling even more isolated. This conference filled me confidence in my own profession as I now have additional research and data as a foundation to progress in promoting gender-sensitive mental health resources.

The congress was a truly inspiring experience; to be surrounded by people from all over the world who acknowledged the difference in women’s mental health and the need to provide gender-sensitive mental health services for women. I feel even more passionate and driven knowing there are people working all over the world to improve the mental health of women.

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