Australia is facing a significant backlog of untreated mental health problems in women, according to Jayashri Kulkarni, psychiatry professor and director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre.
Women experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, but mental health services and treatments are largely “gender-blind,” despite men and women experiencing unique mental health challenges due to different biological, psychological, and social factors.
Therefore, more targeted research and gender-specific treatments are needed to address biological, psychological, and social factors of mental illness, including specialist women’s mental health clinics and clinical trials to investigate hormone treatments. Kulkarni and her colleagues at Monash University established Health Education Research (HER) Centre Australia to expand research and develop gender-specific treatments.
They called on political leaders to invest more in women’s mental health research, treatment, and education. Kulkarni recommended the establishment of specialist women’s mental health clinics, as well as more inpatient mental health facilities for women. Clinical trials to investigate the link between reproductive hormones and mental health problems were also needed to improve women’s mental health.
While reproductive events are normal physiological processes, they cause significant hormonal shifts that can contribute to poor mental health in some people. Hormone treatments were being under-utilized in women experiencing depression at menopause, and a head-to-head trial was needed to evaluate their use. Overall, women’s mental health needs better resourcing, understanding, and approaches to address their unique mental health challenges.