Revolutionizing Mental Health Services: Women’s History Month

Women’s College Hospital has been changing the way the world approaches women’s mental health care for decades. Our first Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Lois Plub, came to WCH to lead the expansion of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services. Her medical writings cautioned against viewing pregnancy as solely a “biological event,” explaining that by only focusing on anatomy and physiology, the emotional aspects of pregnancy are often overlooked. She wrote that for many women pregnancy and motherhood can bring with it great psychological strain including stress, depression, irritability, fatigue, and fear. After stepping down from her role in 1973, Dr. Lois Plumb remained on staff at the hospital until her retirement in 1997. 

Today, the department of Psychiatry at WCH is led by Dr. Simone Vigod, WCH’s Chief of Psychiatry. Dr. Vigod is a leading expert in perinatal mood disorders, and is leveraging digital technologies to allow for timely, accessible mental health care. One of Women’s College Hospital’s flagship programs is its Women’s Mental Health Program, continuing to build on Dr. Lois Plumb’s legacy. It is the largest clinical and research program of its kind in Canada, with approximately 20,000 patient visits per year. Of particular focus is helping women experiencing depression and anxiety related to trauma, reproductive life stages and medical conditions. In 2019, WCH took on a revolutionary approach to client care by launching Women’s Virtual, Canada’s first virtual hospital. Integrating a variety of digital health tools, like online peer support groups and video visits, Women’s Virtual allows patients to be treated and cared for in the setting most appropriate for them. This helps to reduce the many barriers that already exist when seeking psychiatric care. 

“Virtual care is revolutionary for parents like me. It’s easy, it’s flexible, it’s simple to use and it’s private. You’re able to get the therapy you need, get your prescriptions filled and get back to your day. It’s been amazing.”

Patricia, Women’s Virtual Patient

At Women’s College Hospital, we have, and still are re-imagining how women’s mental healthcare is delivered to make sure that no woman goes without treatment.