Women’s Mental Health: Projects and Collaborations

Promoting the mental well-being of girls and women, locally and globally.

Members of McLean’s Division of Women’s Mental Health engages in share their expertise in psychiatry and women’s health to support the field. Through community collaborations, scholarly conferences, and more, the division aims to promote women’s mental health as a means to improving brain health for girls and women.

Women’s Mental Health Clinical Toolkit

It is not uncommon for individuals to struggle with more than one mental health condition. However, many patients receive care in specialty treatment programs focused on one specific disorder. To better serve these patients, clinicians regularly consult their colleagues to gain expertise and advice on treatments for co-occurring conditions.

The Women’s Mental Health Clinical Toolkit, developed with philanthropic support, is designed to provide McLean-specific information to more effectively implement treatment across our diverse treatment settings. The toolkit was launched in January 2020, and McLean clinicians across the hospital have access to this online resource, ensuring that information on conditions that uniquely affect women and girls is readily available to all.

The toolkit contains five guides to assist clinicians in addressing:

  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Trauma
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • College mental health

The guides help McLean clinicians answer their most frequently asked questions when delivering care for their patients. Harnessing knowledge from McLean’s many clinical experts, the content for each guide was created by clinicians with expertise on each topic. Many division faculty and staff contributed to the development of this resource, including Drs. Dawn Sugarman, Kristin Javaras, and Shelly Greenfield.

Each guide contains sections for assessment, treatment, and basic facts about the disorder, enabling users to quickly find what they are looking for. Content includes basic advice for acute management, screening, and assessment tools; McLean-based referral options with contact information for specific McLean programs; brief descriptions of evidence-based treatments; and resources for clinicians, patients, and families. Although compiled by the division, these resources can be used to help treat both female and male patients throughout McLean’s clinical programs.

Much of the information is presented in PDF form, allowing for easy downloads. Educational videos and links to trusted resources can be found throughout the guides.

In addition to helping clinicians treat patients, the toolkit’s content can serve as training materials for clinicians, counselors, and mental health specialists. McLean users are invited to offer feedback through the toolkit’s online platform. The platform’s collaborative approach allows the same content experts who developed the original content to respond to feedback and update content in the toolkit.

Looking forward, the division aims to work collaboratively with colleagues across the hospital to add information about other conditions, including psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders.

Learn More About Women’s Mental Health

Find articles, news, videos, and more about mental health and well-being for girls and young women.


Community Action Partners Consultation and Strategic Planning

In 2019, the division engaged in an eight-month strategic planning process with Harvard’s Community Action Partners (CAP) to help define the strategic direction of the Division of Women’s Mental Health. This provided a framework to evaluate a range of opportunities—from serving as conveners of public conversation to incubating new programs and collaborations to engaging in deeper research, policy analysis, and direct consulting in this field. The overarching aim was to disseminate evidence-based insights that advance mental health outcomes for women and girls.

Boston Club Virtual Conversation on Strengthening Resilience

Dr. Amy Gagliardi and honorary member of McLean’s Board of Trustees Jeanne Blake participated in a virtual conversation at The Boston Club. The event was entitled “Foster Resilience: Build A High Performance Culture.” Together they discussed the science behind building resilience and outlined three ways to build resilience during challenging times: creating connections, helping others, and practicing gratitude.

Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council

Co-chaired by Carroll C.D. Pierce and Kristine M. Trustey, our Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council has grown to include more than 100 members. The group provides philanthropic support for the division while raising awareness for women’s mental health issues. The council’s On Women’s Minds luncheon events continue to focus on topics of pressing importance to women and girls. Topics have included “Promoting Resiliency: What Borderline Personality Treatments Can Teach Us All,” “Across a Woman’s Lifespan: Depression and Treatments That Work,” and “Women and Alcohol: What Every Woman Should Know.”

Women sit on couch
The Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council provides philanthropic support and raises awareness

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Drs. Shelly Greenfield and Kimberlyn Leary served on the steering committee of the Harvard University and University of Michigan joint summit on the opioid epidemic that took place in October 2019. The summit was under the leadership of Mary Bassett, MD, director of Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and former New York City Health Commissioner. Drs. Greenfield and Leary were interviewed by Dr. Bassett for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s podcast. Listen to Dr. Greenfield’s episode and Dr. Leary’s episode.

Women Physicians, Burnout, and Addiction

Physician burnout is a well-known problem in the United States, but it is not well understood how burnout affects women physicians in particular. A new book, “Burnout in Women Physicians: Prevention, Treatment, and Management,” is the first comprehensive presentation of this topic and was just published in spring 2020. Drs. Amanda Sedgewick, Shelly Greenfield, and Hilary Connery contributed a chapter on women physicians, burnout, and addiction.

Trauma-Informed Care Initiatives

Dr. Milissa Kaufman joined with other leaders to form a research sub-group of the Partners Trauma Informed Committee. Dr. Kaufman collaborated with investigator Dr. Annie Lewis-O’Connor of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and other colleagues to develop a forthcoming scale to assess the trauma-informed readiness of institutions. McLean also has a trauma-informed committee, which continues to refine the teaching curriculum offered to Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean psychiatry residents, with a focus on teaching trauma-informed assessment practices in acute, inpatient, and outpatient settings.

Support the Division of Women’s Mental Health

A gift to women’s mental health supports the educational, clinical, and research activities of McLean’s Division of Women’s Mental Health. Help advance the division’s mission to address and improve the mental health of all women and girls throughout their lives.


Presentation to the Boston Chamber Women’s Network Advisory Board

Division faculty met with women leaders at Deloitte in Boston for a breakfast presentation on women’s mental health, introduced by Dr. Shelly Greenfield and followed by a talk by Drs. Lauren Lebois and Milissa Kaufman on “Trauma and the Brain: A Tale of Three Women.” Dr. Kimberlyn Leary then facilitated a robust discussion with the women business leaders gathered for this networking event.

Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Networking Breakfast

Amy Gagliardi, MD, participated in a panel on nurturing healthy environments that promote mental wellness and how workplace culture can impact employee well-being. Fellow panelists included leaders from the Boston Foundation, Boston Medical Center, Cigna Corporation, and Accenture. Dr. Gagliardi spoke about depression and anxiety in women and gender-specific research as a relatively new focus since the mid-1990s, emphasizing a pressing need to develop new treatments.

Division Retreat

The division holds twice-annual retreats for staff, faculty, and invited guests. In March 2019, the spring retreat featured an interactive workshop, “From Practice to Policy: Building Clinician Perspectives into Policy Initiatives to Reduce Bias Against Women and Girls in Healthcare.”

The workshop was led by Caroline Bettinger-López, professor of clinical legal education and director of the Human Rights Clinic, and Tamer Ezer, associate director and practitioner-in-residence of the Human Rights Clinic and lecturer in law at the University of Miami School of Law. Professor López spoke about identifying and preventing gender bias in law enforcement response to sexual assault and domestic violence and led a discussion on extending similar guidelines to health and mental health settings.

Also featured was Rosi Greenberg, a leadership development trainer and graphic facilitator, who visually records the content of lectures, workshops, and meetings to help groups think in new ways. The graphic she created to capture the ideas generated during the retreat was disseminated to group and division members, and the large poster version is on display in McLean’s de Marneffe building.

Screening of Film on Domestic Violence

Faculty and trainees from McLean and Harvard Law School co-sponsored a screening of “Home Truth” on the Harvard Law School campus. This groundbreaking documentary recounts the experience of Latina and Native American domestic violence survivor and human rights advocate Jessica Gonzalez Lenahan and her fight to strengthen legal rights for victims of domestic violence. Ms. Gonzalez Lenahan was present for the screening and an interactive discussion with Caroline Bettinger-López, professor at the University of Miami Law School and former Obama White House advisor on violence against women.