COVID-19 and Mental Health Initiative Virtual Learning Series
Event Summary: Impacts of COVID-19 on Women's Mental Health and Substance Use


Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and substance use needs of Canadians has been unprecedented — and this new crisis exacerbates existing issues and inequities across the country. 

As part of the Government of Canada’s rapid response to address the public health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA), in collaboration with Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and institute partners, launched the COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative.

This initiative provides urgent evidence to decision makers and practitioners to support mental health and substance use responses in the context of COVID-19. Three funding opportunities were launched under this initiative, supporting more than 100 projects with a total investment of $13.5 million from CIHR and partners.

Event Description

On May 4, 2021, during Mental Health Awareness Week, CIHR-INMHA hosted the first event as part of the COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative Virtual Learning Series: Impacts of COVID-19 on women’s mental health and substance use. The event brought together researchers, policy makers, community members, people with lived and living expertise, partners and other knowledge users.

The focus of this online event was the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on women — a cross-cutting theme that emerged from the analysis of 45 projects funded through the Knowledge Synthesis: COVID-19 in Mental Health and Substance Use.

The objectives of the Impacts of COVID-19 on women’s mental health and substance use event were to:

Miss Jennifer O’Connell, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, provided opening remarks on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu. Seven funded teams of researchers, knowledge users and people with lived and living expertise presented on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s mental health and substance use. This research includes mental health services outcomes, practice delivery and guidelines and related issues.

The event was divided into two sessions and included the following presentations from researchers, knowledge users and people with lived and living expertise:

Session 1: Substance Use

Digital health solutions to support women with addiction during COVID-19: Applying a gender-and trauma-informed lens
Lena Quilty (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health); Betty-Lou Kristy (Centre for Innovation in Peer Support)

Gender and addiction-related intervention among individuals in situations of social precarity in the context of a pandemic
Karine Bertrand (Université de Sherbrooke); Chelsea Grothé (CACTUS Montreal)

Intimate partner violence and substance use in a pandemic context: Implications for substance use provider, anti-violence workers and first responders
Lorraine Greaves, Nancy Poole, Andreea Brabete and Lindsay Wolfson (Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health)

Session 2: Mental Health

Mobilizing knowledge on the use of virtual or remote-based trauma-focused interventions for individuals experiencing and at risk of domestic violence during COVID-19
Stephanie Montesanti (University of Alberta); Amy Munroe (Sagesse)

Pandemic, stress and burnout among female health care workers
Abi Sriharan (University of Toronto); Savithiri Ratnapalan (Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto)

Social isolation and loneliness in older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: A knowledge synthesis of pre- and post-COVID-19 interventions, vulnerability and resilience factors
Laurette Dubé (McGill University); Catherine Paquet (Université Laval)

The global burden of mental illness in family caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Monica Parry (University of Toronto); Nicole Nickerson (Patient Partner); Amy Coupal (The Ontario Caregiver Organization)

Key Findings and Recommendations

Some key findings and recommendations from the event include the following:

For more information

The program for this Virtual Learning Series event [ PDF (706 KB) - external link ] is available online.

A searchable repository of the funded knowledge syntheses, as well as other projects funded through the CMH Initiative, can be found online.

To stay up to date on the latest brain and mental health research, including new knowledge on COVID-19 and Mental Health and Substance Use, subscribe to the CIHR-INMHA newsletter.

Contact us

University of Calgary
Cumming School of Medicine
Heritage Medical Research Building, Room 172
3330 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, AB T2N 4N1

Tel.: 403-210-7161

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