November 16, 2021
Gender Disparities in the Pandemic: Women’s Mental Health

Date & Time: Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Format: 60-minute presentation/Q&A with the panelists followed by a 30-minute community discussion

Panelists: • Dr. Nirmaljit Dhami, El Camino Health • Dr. Sandra Escobar, Ph.D., Ravenswood Family Health Network • Riley Simonsen, Teen Advisory Council, Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC)

Moderator: Mayor Neysa Fligor, City of Los Altos

Event Hosts: Los Altos Mountain View Community Foundation and Los Altos Women’s Caucus

Co-Sponsors: El Camino Health, California Water Service, Young Craig & Co., Los Altos Town Crier, Los Altos Village Association, Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, American Association of University Women, Day Worker Center of Mountain View

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Thank you to all who could join us for our recent Community Conversation on the pandemic and its impact on women, mental health, and gender disparities. We had a fascinating discussion and the evening could easily have gone much longer. Our panelists – Dr . Nirmaljit Dhami, Dr. Sandra Escobar, and Riley Simonsen – along with Mayor Neysa Fligor engaged in a wide range of subjects.

A few items stood out to me as I listened to the conversation on Women’s Mental Health:
  1. We kind of forgot how much fear the pandemic in its early months created and the multiple losses that some people experienced all at the same time – safety, the deaths of friends or family, their own health, and employment.
  2. Drs. Dhami and Escobare reflected on how the pandemic brought about real tangible increases in domestic abuse and violence, anxiety about pregnancy and childbirth, and substance abuse. Riley noted that the consequences of the pandemic are still materializing now; for instance, young women in school settings have faced increased pressure to return quickly to normal (i.e., the social pressure to appear completely put together).
  3. The panelists reflected not only on the adversities faced by women but the disparities experienced amongst different groups of women. Lower socioeconomic women were already hurting before the pandemic: many lost jobs and still struggle to reclaim the jobs they had prior to the pandemic; many face increased food insecurity, and many face increased mental health challenges.

Limited financial resources by community institutions, staffing shortfalls, and stigma associated with mental health and wellness continue to plague current responses.

The discussion did highlight a few opportunities and signs of hope for Women’s Mental Health:

  • Mental health and wellness continue to get more attention and become less stigmatized – there is more work to be done, but the trend is pointed in the right direction.
  • More opportunities exist to support community health care centers as well as broad-based approaches providing needed services.
  • We should continue to explore more equitable employment approaches and policies.
  • We should continue to advocate for self-care, and that messaging should be supported from the top down.
  • And we should continue to break the silos that isolate our providers, organizations, and patients.

Los Altos Women's Caucus 2021