An Intuitive Fit

Psych Congress 2021 partners with ISRP to innovate women’s mental healthcare

The bar was set high when Psych Congress 2021 partnered with the International Society of Reproductive Psychiatry (ISRP). This first-time alliance will give conference attendees the education, information, and tools to ensure that every patient has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.

It’s a partnership that feels intuitive for both parties, since the organizations share common goals, including a resolution to increase awareness for mental health disorders specific to women.

“I think most psychiatrists recognize the need for specialized knowledge specific to women’s mental health, but they may not fully grasp how to assess the impact of reproductive hormones on a woman’s mental health. That makes a diagnosis and treatment plan difficult,” explains Rachel Dalthorp, MD, MHSA, LifeStance Medical Director, board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a founding member of ISRP.

Today, increased access to this “specialized knowledge” is more important than ever, Dr. Dalthorp adds. “As we look toward more personalized medicine, we are recognizing that gender, specifically sex hormones, greatly impact the development and progression of mood disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, peripartum and postpartum depression and anxiety, and the onset or exacerbation of mood disorders during the transition to menopause.”

The relentless pandemic is also impacting mental health issues specific to women, with one recent study linking a current surge in anxiety and major depressive disorders among women to COVID-19 backlash. It appears, the study reports, that women are assuming the brunt of household chores, childcare, homeschooling, and economic strife—often while also holding working remotely.1

As Dr. Dalthorp explains, a woman’s role in her family can make it even harder to ask for help—so part of ISRP’s mission is to normalize talking about issues and make it okay to ask for help—whether it’s help with mood changes triggered by hormonal transitions or in-the-moment psychological stressors. “Women need to get past that superwoman mentality that we have to do it all, and that seeking assistance means we’re letting our families down or we failed,” she adds.

Partnering with Psych Congress 2021, and speaking directly to mental health clinicians, will help empower ISRPs mission to increase awareness, collaboration, and education in the field of reproductive psychiatry and hormone-related mood disorders. Women need to know that there are mental healthcare professionals out there who understand what they’re going through—but clinicians, too, need to understand the impact of reproductive transitions, what women are experiencing, and how important their help is, Dr. Dalthorp emphasizes.

The doctor does recognize progress in terms of increased awareness for mental health disorders specific to women. “In the past couple of years, we’ve seen the approval of our first medication specifically approved for postpartum depression, and there have also been a couple of medications approved for the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women,” Dr. Dalthorp says.

In addition, the National Curriculum in Reproductive Psychiatry is creating a curriculum for women-specific mental health disorders. “So, in the near future, doctors coming out of residency training are going to be much better prepared.” Dr. Dalthorp says with confidence.

Conferences like Psych Congress 2021 and ISRP’s dedication to forming a network of healthcare providers equipped to provide comprehensive care for women’s mental health across the reproductive lifespan are solid steps forward. Women themselves hold the key to success, suggests Dr. Dalthorp. “My hope is that as patients receive effective treatments, they will share their experience with other women—and encourage them to ask for help. Then I think we’ll see real progress.”

1. COVID-19 Mental Disorders Collaborators. Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet. 2021 Oct 8:S0140-6736(21)02143-7. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02143-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34634250; PMCID: PMC8500697.