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Directors' Message: Celebrating Women's Health & Mental Health Awareness Month

Updated: 4 days ago

" Your body is the best novel to read; it deserves binge-watching from head to toe and feeling the response of tingle-joy as you recite the kindest words you can muster, put on repeat, day after day.  - Janine Payne


As things around us change, let's grow in loving and protecting our bodies and mental health. It's Women's Health and Mental Awareness Month, and we've packed a powerful punch of how to love on us just for you. Come on, let's go!


Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with an appointment scheduler that dropped in my lap just in time for writing our Women's Health and Mental Health Month. While setting up my medical appointment, she apologized after stumbling over a few words. I immediately made space for her by saying, "Listen, I do the same thing, and sometimes have to pause and say to myself, wait, what did I just say?" It changed the trajectory of our conversation – she said, at least I know what is happening to me; I just realized I am going through perimenopause! Oh boy – I said, "Do you have an extra minute?! The next few minutes was a coming together – meeting of the mind if you will, and within minutes, we'd connected. It, indeed, was a sisterhood moment.  

Around the same time, I'd heard about Halle Berry's involvement in the Advancing Menopause Care and Mid-Life Women's Health Act. This bill aims to provide research, grants, education, outreach, and additional services to women experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms. Did you know?


  • Most medical schools and residency programs don't teach aspiring physicians about menopause. Indeed, a recent survey reveals that just 20 percent of OB-GYN residency programs provide any menopause training. The courses are mostly elective. And nearly 80 percent of medical residents admit that they feel "barely comfortable" discussing or treating menopause.


  • Three out of four women who seek help for menopause-related symptoms don't receive it" (AARP, "What Doctors Don't Know About Menopause).


These two examples are why I celebrate how women are living out the theme of Women's Health Month, Empowering Women, Cultivating Health: Celebrating Voices, Wellness, and Resilience. Embrace Mental Health Awareness Month.


According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "Most Americans have positive views about mental health disorders and treatment, according to the results of a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the APA. A total of 87% of American adults agreed that having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and 86% said they believe that people with mental health disorders can get better, according to the poll.


There is much for us to celebrate, from how women are using their voices around menopause to supporting each other through mental health discussions that, though increasingly becoming more normalized, are still challenging in some communities.


IAWH believes that mental health is an essential aspect of women's health, including maternal health, support for postpartum depression, and menopause awareness. For instance, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, irritability, depression, and anxiety are common signs of perimenopause and menopause, impacting our quality of life during midlife. Look for our discussion later this month, "How Can We Empower Pregnant Women and Birthing Individuals and Cultivate Better Health Outcomes."


This Yale Medicine article is so poignant in describing the impact of poor care that lead to the death of a woman in childbirth: 


"When a woman dies in pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period, it means there is an infant who will never know their mother. There is a tremendous sense of loss, grief, fear, and blame, as well as new, unexpected responsibility for the other parent and the family's extended community."


report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counted 1,205 U.S. women who died of maternal causes in 2021, compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019.


  • In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women (26.6). The increases from 2020 to 2021 for all races and Hispanic-origin groups were significant. Rates increased with maternal age. Rates in 2021 were:

  • 20.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for women under age 25

  • 31.3 for those aged 25–39, and 

  • 138.5 for those aged 40 and over. The rate for women aged 40 and over was 6.8 times higher than the rate for women under 25. 


It's important to celebrate the women in your life and encourage them to prioritize their mental health. Support each other at every stage of life and check in on them to see how they're doing. Let them know that it's OK not to be OK sometimes and assure them that there is a safe place for them to go if they are struggling with their mental health. 

 

Janine E. Payne, MPH

Co-Executive Director


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