Mental Health Projects Advance

NASW has been involved in several projects addressing women's mental health concerns. Senior Policy Associate Rita Webb attended a Women's Mental Health Roundtable meeting, and a report has been issued from a Surgeon General's Workshop on Women's Mental Health that NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark participated in.


Webb was one of 35 participants invited to attend the Women's Mental Health Roundtable in December. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Foundation hosted the event. It included four breakout sessions addressing advocacy, services, public education and research and training.

The goal of the roundtable was to "bring together leaders of national organizations concerned with the health, mental health and well-being of women to create and advance an agenda to improve women's mental health through strategic and collaborative action," according to organizers' material.

Recommendations came out of each breakout session. They include:

  • Develop a women's mental health listserv or clearinghouse; conduct outreach to caregivers in positions of influence as primary stakeholders; and influence the presidential campaign debate on women's mental health.
  • Improve access to quality care specific to women; increase knowledge and skills related to women's issues; and focus on prevention.
  • Empower consumers through a public awareness campaign; target primary as well as secondary audiences about depression; and focus on positive mental health.
  • Prioritize the research agenda on women's mental health; contextualize women's mental health research; and explore the management of mental health.

"Our profession plays an enormous role in addressing women's mental health," Webb said. "NASW's participation in this roundtable allowed us to offer our expertise in the social work approach to services."

Surgeon general's workshop report

The surgeon general's office just released a report on a workshop to address women's mental health. NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark participated in the national workshop, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2005, in Denver, Colo. NASW was a sponsor of the event.

The goal of the workshop was to broaden the conceptual framework of issues affecting women's mental health, and it aimed to build on the findings and recommendations of the first "Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health," published in 1999.

Clark served in a breakout group focusing on trauma, violence and abuse. The other focus groups making up the conceptual framework for the workshop were: biological and development factors; specific mental disorders; social stress and stigma; treatment access and insurance; identification and intervention; health system; and protective and resilience factors.

The report focuses on "a series of overarching messages and cross-cutting themes pertaining to the mental health of girls and women [that] will serve to inform the development of surgeon general's communiques or toolkits." The themes include:

  • Women's mental health is essential to overall health.
  • The disease burden of mental illness is enormous.
  • Women's health matters.
  • Mental disorders must be viewed like other chronic medical conditions and are highly treatable.
  • Mental health must be addressed across the life span, from early childhood to the later years.
  • There are ways to promote resilience and factors that help prevent mental disorders.
  • Culture is an important source of resilience, but also of barriers related to the recognition and acceptance of mental health issues.
  • Recovery from mental disorders or from the effects of trauma, violence and abuse is possible.
  • Health literacy is a public health and surgeon general's priority.

"A final message that echoed throughout the meeting was the recognition that women's mental health issues touch everyone, either directly or through the women they love," the report states.

Get the report: Surgeon General's Workshop on Women's Mental Health