Thursday, December 13

Laval plagued by high proportion of women in distress

Laval, one of the province’s most prosperous regions, is characterized by the highest proportion of psychologically distressed women. The Table de concertation de Laval en condition feminine - The Laval Task Force on the Status of Women – (TCLCF) held a conference at Chomedey’s Chateau Royal in November to address the situation.

The conference, which was open to the public, gathered together 200 women from community circles and the health and social services network. The perspective of the exercise was social rather than biomedical.

In her opening address Catherine des Rivières-Pigeon, professor of sociology at the Montreal Campus of the University of Quebec, noted that “women who suffer from psychological distress and depression are much more numerous than men. To this day we still cite biological differences to explain this disparity: hormones, pre-menstrual periods, menopause, and post-partum are often stated as causes of the problem. (But) it’s important to look at social factors of distress and accept the limits of approaches which are exclusively biomedical, in any study of this health problem.”

In the morning part of the conference emphasis was also put on the difficult task of reconciling work and family for many women living in serious and precarious economic situations.

Conference workshops also tackled isolation of immigrant women, violence and mental health, as well as drug-addiction, psychological distress and single mothers.

The portrait

After lunch, the conference turned into a bustling improvised discussion producing lots of excitement. Everyone was ready to talk about the ‘Global approach to women’s health and practical alternatives.” Suzanne Despatie of the Group d’action autonome (Task Force on Autonomy), stated, identifying the constants that still prevail in today’s hospitals and CLSCs.

“There’s still very little recognition of the victims of rape and other violence. Women are often treated like children and their demands and needs not listened to by medical personnel. Anti-depressant medication is quickly prescribed without due consideration to the woman’s social situation,” Mrs. Despatie affirmed, insisting also on the fact that there is a lack of translators for immigrant women and lots of scorn in relation to the right of confidentiality.

Fernande Ménard

Fernande Ménard, a pioneer of practical alternatives in matters of mental health of women, had a message for the medical profession: “For a distressed woman to resume an active life, she has to relearn the meaning of pleasure. We don’t have the right to tell these women who come to see us what to do. We have to give them back their control over their lives. The professionals should not think that they have all the answers for these women,” said the recipient of the Simone Monet-Chartrand prize. “But we can help redirect the anger these women feel. As counselors, we have to encourage these women to express their anger, which often represents the beginning of the healing process,” she added.

LINK: Courier Laval

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