New Portfolio – Gender and Mental Wellbeing
WHISE has a new portfolio, called Gender and Mental Wellbeing. We see our role as that of building awareness and confidence across of the biological sex and intersectional gender determinants of mental wellbeing, but also to build confidence in gender transformative practice in mental health and wellbeing strategies, policies, programs, and practice in our region. Another key role this portfolio has played this year, is to provide WHISE and regional stakeholder input to the newly formed Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion Office (within the Department of Health) on the first ever:
- State Wellbeing Plan
- Diverse Communities Plan
- Eating Disorder Strategy
A new web page and logo was added to the WHISE Website called How We Support Mental Wellbeing which outlines the goals for our work in this new space. These are:
- Create partnerships with local governments and other organisations.
- Ensure health & wellbeing strategies take gendered approaches.
- Support, enable and strengthen women’s leadership and participation in public and social life at local levels.
- Integrate mental health literacy and encourage help-seeking into all health promotion work.
The webpage outlines the case for a gender transformative approach to mental wellbeing and how gender inequality, together with others forms of discrimination and oppression, is recognised as one of the most influential components of mental health & wellbeing for people of all genders. The impact of gender on mental wellbeing for women is shown in many ways. Gender inequality, discrimination, gender stereotyping, sexualisation, sexual harassment, family & sexual violence, disproportionate care responsibilities, economic disadvantage and marginalisation of women’s health are examples of gendered experiences that can contribute negatively to mental wellbeing.
The portfolio recognises that biological changes across different life stages can also play a key role in a person’s mental wellbeing. Periods of adolescence, menopause and alike each have a unique influence on women and creates their own challenges. This reiterates the need for a sex and gendered approach.
New Theory of Change
WHISE staff launched and socialised the new Gender and Mental Wellbeing portfolio and its alignment to the WHS (Women s Health Services) Theory of Change document.
WHISE promoted the new portfolio through 10 presentations to local networks and stakeholder organisations, both in person and online. One of these for example, was a presentation to the PRET (Promoting Respect and Equity Together) Partnership.
Submissions & Consultations
Between July 2022 and February 2023, the newly established Mental Health, and Wellbeing Promotion Office at the Department of Health, undertook extensive engagement to better understand the wellbeing needs and perspectives of a wide range of people, and to develop shared priorities to support the wellbeing of everyone in Victoria. WHISE was active in this work.
State Wellbeing Plan – Submission of Community Toolkit to Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion Office
WHISE has taken proactive steps in fostering collaboration with our local mental wellbeing stakeholders, embarking on an engagement journey that commenced with a consultation workshop on November 10th 2022. This initiative was designed to gain insights into the community's needs and channel constructive feedback to the State Government. These efforts are integral to crafting the inaugural Victorian Statewide Wellbeing Plan, emphasising a unified approach to prevention, promotion, and healing that unites communities, service providers, and governmental entities.
The workshop organised by WHISE in November marked a significant milestone, culminating in a comprehensive submission to Engage Victoria. This inclusive consultation process involved both longstanding and newly engaged WHISE stakeholders. Not only did it serve as a catalyst for forging new relationships and partnerships within the mental health sector, but it also provided valuable insights drawn from the experiences of mental health, youth services and professionals who interact with individuals seeking services and programs in the region, including headspace, YSAS, EACH WILD Program, Danny Frawley Centre, Frankston City Council, Wellsprings for Women, Taskforce Men’s Behaviour Change, Bunjilwarra Drug and Alcohol Healing Centre and Kingston City Council. The key themes that came out through the workshop were:
- Social Connection and Nature: The significance of social connection and fostering a connection to nature as primary avenues for improving mental wellbeing. Encourage activities and initiatives that promote these elements in daily life.
- Language of Wellbeing: Prefer the language of "wellbeing" or "mental wellbeing promotion" over "mental health promotion" to frame discussions and initiatives positively.
- Avoiding Vulnerability Frame: Recognise that some segments of the population have experienced oppression and discrimination rather than being inherently vulnerable. Advocating for transformative changes in societal systems, structures, attitudes, and behaviors is essential to empower traditionally marginalised individuals and ensure they have a voice and agency.
- Intersectional Gender Lens: Apply a robust intersectional gender perspective to all wellbeing efforts, acknowledging the unique challenges faced by different gender identities and addressing them in a comprehensive manner.
- CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Programs and Services: Prioritise Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) led and co-designed programs and services, offered in multiple languages. Collaborate with community and religious leaders to facilitate these initiatives.
- First Nations People: Acknowledge the importance of connection to culture and cultural safety programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-First Nations people as integral components of improving wellbeing.
- Early Intervention: Place a strong emphasis on early intervention by focusing on parenting programs and interventions in early years and school settings to build a solid foundation for mental wellbeing.
- Gender Transformative Approach: Address harmful gender norms, stereotypes, and inequalities, recognising their role as drivers of family violence and contributing factors to suicide, particularly male suicide. Promote gender-transformative practices that challenge these norms.
- Whole Community Approach: Advocate for a high-profile, whole community approach to mental wellbeing promotion. This approach prioritises social connection, combat loneliness, and work to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Encourage collective efforts across all sectors of society to support mental wellbeing.
These key themes were provided in the submission, as a comprehensive framework for promoting mental wellbeing by fostering inclusivity and social connection while addressing the underlying intersectional gendered determinants of mental health.
Diverse Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework and Blueprint
WHISE staff worked collaboratively to provide input and feedback via a survey form to the Victorian Government on the Engage Victoria platform.
This submission urged the state government to invest in a robust, inclusive, and capable primary prevention workforce operating across various community settings, with a particular emphasis on early years and parenting programs, aiming to promote mental wellbeing through an intersectional gender perspective. This includes initiatives involving men and boys.
It pointed to the need to enhance pathways for individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds to join the wellbeing sector, serving as role models and community leaders in advancing culturally safe and sensitive mental wellbeing initiatives while fostering community cohesion.
Eating Disorder Strategy Submissions
Upon entering the mental health space, WHISE is increasingly scoping opportunities to advocate for a gendered lens over the prevention of eating disorders. WHISE staff completed a pre-consultation survey to the Department of Health for the consultation on the Victorian Eating Disorder Strategy, due to be released later in 2023. This submission drew out the benefits of trauma-informed and gender transformative practices for eating disorder prevention, early intervention, and treatment.
Alongside this submission, WHISE wrote an advocacy letter, outlining the importance of including the Women’s Health Services in the implementation of the prevention domain of the strategy to reduce the gendered mental health gap. This letter was acknowledged and well received by the Department of Health.
Response to the Suicide Prevention and Response Strategy
In August 2022, WHISE submitted input into the building of the suicide prevention and response strategy. WHISE noted and supported the strategy’s use of the socioecological model to guide its approach to the contributing and protective factors associated with suicide and requested that an intersectional gender lens is applied to the discussions, initiatives and interventions targeting these factors. Equally important was the request that intersectionality is framed around the systems of oppression rather than individual or group identities.
Sex, Gender and Mental Wellbeing Forum – April 2023
WHISE held its first public event to outline its approach to women’s mental health and wellbeing. The forum focused on why biological sex and gender matter in mental health promotion and health planning and was designed specifically for those who sit in roles in health promotion, health planning, programming, and policy. The event was held in partnership with HER Centre Australia and explored the biological determinants of women's wellbeing across the lifespan, including but not limited to menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and menopause, as well as the social determinants which centre on the impacts of gender inequality, including socioeconomic challenges, experiencing violence and homelessness. Participants were delivered a session which sought to build understanding of:
- What mental health promotion is
- The biological determinants of women’s mental health
- The social determinants of women’s mental health / barriers to achieving optimum mental health and wellbeing
- The gendered mental health and wellbeing gap (services/research etc.)
- Gender transformative practice and why it is important
“Whilst it was no surprise to hear that research into women's mental health is underfunded, the importance of advocating for more resources was the biggest take away for me.” – Participant
112 people registered
63 people attended the online session
98 views of the recording on YouTube
SOCIAL VALUE IMPACT:
Program Name: Biological Sex, Gender, and Mental Wellbeing Forum
Net Benefit to Community : $144,413.
The net benefit per participant is $5,554.
Benefit Cost Ratio : 10.26
Social Impact as calculated through the Australia Social Value Bank for the delivery of the Critical Friends Network.
The values used in this cost benefit analysis have been derived using the wellbeing valuation method from data gathered through the HILDA (Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) and Journeys Home Survey.
Biological Sex, Gender, and Mental Wellbeing Forum: for Front-Line Workers – July 2023
A second online forum with HER Centre Australia on the biological determinants of women's wellbeing across the lifespan and their impact on mental wellbeing will be held in July 2023.