About plenary sessions’ speakers’ conferences

The IAWMH 2019 Congress is proud to welcome the conferences of:


Prof. Jane FISHER, Melbourne, Australia

PLENARY SESSION 6 – 8 March 3:15 pm – 4:00 pm

Title: Gender-informed approaches to mental health promotion, what distinguishes them and do they work?

Women experience higher rates of the common mental disorders than men do. This health inequality is attributable to gender-based risks, including experiences of gender-based violence, discrimination, restriction of roles and responsibilities and lack of access to the protections of education and income-generating work. The quality of relationship with an intimate partner is of central importance. Mental health problems are more prevalent if the relationship is characterised by criticism, intimidation and control. A kind, empathic, trustworthy partner who is committed to shared problem-solving is highly protective. Few mental health promotion interventions have addressed the relationship with an intimate partner and social circumstances directly.

Two innovative programs for perinatal mental health promotion provide emerging evidence that a gender-informed approach is effective. What Were We Thinking is a structured psycho-educational program for women and men and their first babies. It is implemented for small groups of parents within six weeks of birth and is integrated into standard primary care. It provides parents with knowledge and skills to understand and manage unsettled infant behaviours and to renegotiate roles and responsibilities. In Australian trials, there are significant and sustained benefits for postnatal mental health problems among women. Learning Clubs for Women and Infants is a 20 session program to improve the cognitive development of two-year olds in rural Vietnam by addressing multiple risk factors, including maternal mental health, and gender empowerment in an integrated program. Pilot evidence is that it is feasible, highly acceptable, and beneficial.

Mental health promotion which addresses gender-based risks directly appears to be promising.

Dr Florence GRESSIER, Paris, France

PLENARY SESSION 2 – 6 March 3:15 pm – 4:00 pm

Title: Antidepressants during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental disorders
Titre : Antidépresseurs pendant la grossesse et troubles neurodéveloppementaux

Prof. Helen HERRMAN, Melbourne, Australia

PLENARY SESSION 1 – 6 March 2:30 pm – 3:15 pm

Title: Dealing with the challenges of social adversity and clinical care

Women and girls worldwide are more and more likely to be living with social adversities, acute or longstanding, including poverty, displacement by conflict or natural disaster, and the experience of violence and human rights abuses. Their mental health needs are a priority given that mental health is integral to their overall health and connected closely with the health and function of their families and communities. However these needs are often neglected.

Meeting these needs requires a coordinated public health response, with promotion of health and the prevention and treatment of mental ill health, all of which require the support of mental health practitioners. The most direct role for practitioners is clinical care. Yet working in situations of adversity is a challenge.

Psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners are becoming more community orientated; and mental health is seen increasingly as an integral part of general health care and public health. Specialists can strengthen community capacity to respond to the mental health needs of women and girls: through engaging primary health workers and communities in mental health work; through their direct clinical actions; and through their roles in public mental health. The World Psychiatric Association’s priority for action is the mental health of women and girls living in adversity. The WPA is engaging with partners including citiesRISE in health, community, legal and policy systems to support changes in the ways that mental health practitioners collaborate across sectors and work under these conditions.

Prof. Maria MUZIK, Ann Arbor, USA

PLENARY SESSION 5 – 8 March 2:30 pm – 3:15 pm

Title: Motherhood in the Face of Trauma: Vulnerability, Resilience and Therapeutic Interventions

An abundance of evidence confirms that strong and positive early relationships between parent and child in the first thousand days of life lay a critical foundation for healthy child development.   Yet many families with young children face significant challenges in these earliest years, including exposures to traumatic events, toxic stress, mental illness, and other adversities.  This presentation will explore and present strategies for promoting strong, healthy early relationships in peripartum in order to foster a protective buffer, capitalizing on the strength of relationships to help infants, young children, and their parents grow their resilience and thrive!

Prof. Anita RIECHER-RÖSSLER, Basel, Switzerland

PLENARY SESSION 4 – 7 March 3:15 pm – 4:00 pm

Title: Menopause and women’s Mental Health

Menopause is a natural event, which women on average experience around age 50. It is defined as the final menstrual period and is preceded by many years of “menopausal transition” associated with marked biological, especially hormonal, changes. Although it is a physiological process, especially the fluctuations and final loss of estrogen activity may have a negative impact on mental wellbeing, lead to vasomotor symptoms, sleep disturbances, sexual problems, cognitive decline, and depressive symptoms. In addition to the biological changes, for women this phase of life is often burdened with numerous psychosocial stressors, role changes, losses and the experience of aging. Altogether those factors may even contribute to an upsurge in the incidence of severe mental disorders such as depressive disorders or schizophrenic psychoses.

This has many implications for the clinic and for research. In the clinic the specific diagnostic and therapeutic needs of women of this age group have always to be taken into account. Appropriate treatment strategies should not only include specific psychotherapeutic and psychosocial interventions but also consider estrogen replacement where indicated in addition to standard psychiatric care. The latter of course has always to be based on a thorough individual risk-benefit assessment and decided on in close cooperation with gynecologists and the well-informed woman herself.

While many studies suggest a benefit in perimenopausal depression, there still is a lack of well-designed studies on the indications and contraindications of estrogen replacement in perimenopausal women at risk for or suffering from other mental disorders. Further research is needed, especially regarding perimenopause and schizophrenic psychoses, the relative risk of hormone replacement as compared to treatment with psychoactive drugs or the best augmentation strategies. Last but not least, we need more research on psychotherapies addressing the specific needs of women of this age group.

Dr Simone VIGOD, Toronto, Canada

PLENARY SESSION 3 – 7 March 2:30 pm – 3:15 pm

Title: Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV): under-recognized, with distinct consequences

Sexual violence is any sexual act perpetrated against someone’s will. It includes a range of offenses, including a completed or attempted non-consensual sex act (e.g., rape), abusive sexual contact (e.g., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). Sexual violence can occur within an intimate partner violence (IPV) setting when the victim does not consent, is unable to consent or refuses to allow the act.  More than half of reported acts of sexual violence occur within an intimate partner relationship, particularly for women. In this plenary session, we will review evidence on key aspects of sexual violence within an IPV setting, including case identification, risk factors, consequences and best practices in management.