UCalgary nursing researcher offers digital mental health resources for women | News

In Canada, only about eight percent of health research funding is devoted to women’s health. Dr. Dawn Kingston, RN Aut., Ph.D., UCalgary Nursing, Interprovincial Chair in Women’s Mental Health at Lois Hole Hospital for Women Research is working hard to bridge the gap with its digital mental health platform HOPE, Digitally deliver personalized mental health risk and symptom screening to women, as well as offer education, therapy and “next step” recommendations.

In her own way, Kingston is taking action for equality this International Women’s Day and doing her part to #BreakTheBias.

Kingston began in 2012 by asking women what they needed to improve their mental health during pregnancy and throughout postpartum. Three out of four women in her studies indicated that they preferred to manage their own mental health. As a result, Kingston envisioned the need for accessible and affordable mental health care and resources and launched the digital mental health platform HOPE in 2019, with support from a clinical network, mother and families and its chair, funded by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation (an initiative of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation), University of Calgary Faculty of Nursing and Institute for Women’s and Children’s Health.

“We believe that self-management taps into a woman’s sense of control over her life, empowering her to make the decisions that are in her best interest,” Kingston says. “Often, women are so busy juggling the many aspects of their lives that they don’t have the time or financial resources for traditional therapy or doctor’s appointments and they prefer to be able to take action by themselves. Our HOPE digital platform enables women to access therapeutic and educational resources anytime, anywhere to improve their mental health. »

After supporting more than 4,000 pregnant and postpartum women through this unique app, Kingston says her team has found that many women still struggle with mental health issues after leaving the postpartum period. Through a five-year renewal of its chair in 2021, the app plans to provide mental health supports to women at all stages of life with all types of mental health needs, including pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, grief and loss, relationships and life challenges.

During the COVID pandemic, women’s need for mental health support has increased dramatically, Kingston says.

Women often assume responsibility for care, whether of children or the elderly. With the pandemic, women are more likely to stay home from work to homeschool their children or to take more care of their elderly parents during periods of confinement. Added to already busy lives, the pandemic has heightened stressors in women’s lives and increased the risk of anxiety and/or depression.

Sharlene RutherfordPresident and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation says: “The past two years have undoubtedly been years like no other and unfortunately we have seen that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“However, the new research and initiatives undertaken by Dr. Kingston’s team represent an exceptionally bright ray of optimism in the field of women’s health – an area that has been vastly underresearched, underfunded and underserved. We are so proud and grateful to support Dr. Kingston and her team, and we are confident that they will continue to make tremendous strides in supporting women’s mental health.

Indeed, extensive marketing research conducted by the Kingston team reveals that there is no existing platform like HOPE that offers mental health help and resources to women.

The extended HOPE digital mental health platform, or HOPE 3.0 as it is called, is now under construction and the plan is to launch the upgrade before the end of the year. Features of HOPE 3.0 free screening, therapy and resources for women at any point in their lives so they are empowered to manage their own mental health journey.

“At the end of the day, it’s about overcoming barriers to mental health care,” says Kingston. “No country in the world has been able to provide accessible and affordable mental health care for all and this has always been one of our ambitions. I am so grateful for my chair which provides stable funding and links to others within the Alberta research community. And women in Alberta are luckier.

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