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CMHA Waterloo Wellington celebrates International Women’s Day

'Women should embrace their own vulnerability. We encourage them to reach out for help'
2022 0308 CMHA International Women's Day BG 1
The theme of International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias, which highlights the need to actively address gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping of women.

It’s International Women’s Day and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) is recognizing the social, economic, and political achievements of women.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias, which highlights the need to actively address gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping of women.

Gender bias has a significant negative effect on medical diagnosis and the quality of healthcare for women. This can lead to delays in diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and delays in receiving mental health care. Research has found that women experience depression and anxiety twice as often as men but face more barriers in receiving care according to CMHA WW.

Two years of pandemic-induced stressors, including grief and trauma, can lead to significant long-term mental health effects.

“Women have been really impacted by the pandemic. We know that there still isn’t a level playing field for women yet. There continues to be gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. Women are experiencing these in the workplace, and in the community,” says CMHA WW chief executive officer, Helen Fishburn.

“And on top of that, many women are victims of gender violence, and poverty. Many more refugees are women, there is the plight of Indigenous women, and women who suffer from systemic racism. There are so many women out there who suffer because of all of these factors.”

More than half of the calls received for crisis services through Here 24/7 and the Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team (IMPACT) are from women.

Many are reaching out for support for anxiety and depression, suicidal ideation, and relationship conflicts.

Referrals for Eating Disorders programs at CMHA WW have tripled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women entering the 1st Step program may be experiencing social phobia, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety. There is a growing waitlist for early psychosis support.

“We see more women experiencing anxiety and stress because of the pandemic. They are juggling working from home, their kids are home, and they have aging parents. They are just getting stretched and stretched. They have become professional jugglers,” Fishburn said.

CMHA WW is addressing needs for women in Waterloo Region, so they are better supported.

“There are so many things we can learn from women, as they have navigated this pandemic, including the strength and value of their networks, ability to clearly ask for help, and ability to pivot and adapt in this ever-changing landscape,” said Fishburn.

“Many women are absolutely amazing at building networks and using them to support themselves, whether through family, friends, work, hockey moms, or neighbourhood. Women are amazing at developing networks and building that informal support system into their lives. They have pivoted and adapted through pandemic related changes. They have been incredible about asking for help and being clear about what they need,” Fishburn said.  

Fishburn said it is important that women to continue to build and use these informal networks.

“But the pandemic has caused extreme stress. We also know that women need more formal support this year. Women are turning to other things, such as alcohol, as a way to cope which can actually come back to hurt them rather than help them. We are so pleased that they are reaching out to us because that is a sign of strength,” Fishburn said.

CMHA WW is a non-profit organization that provides a full care system for those with addictions, mental health, or developmental needs serving everyone from children to adults.

“Women should not be striving for perfection, but authenticity. Women are doing their very best to juggle their families and work. We all struggle at one time or another, and sometimes the struggle is very deep. Women should embrace their own vulnerability. We encourage them to reach out for help,” Fishburn said.

“Vulnerability is the new strength.”

For more information about the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, visit here.


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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community. She joined CambridgeToday in 2021
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