A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Women’s Mental Health Research

‘Endometriosis and women’s mental health’

Monash University, Vic.
Awarded 2014-2017

“In this context of debilitating pain and few medical treatment options, it is not surprising that many women with endometriosis report mental health difficulties and emotional distress.”

Researcher Profile

Kate Young has worked as a research assistant in women’s health since graduating with Bachelors of Business Management (Human Resources) and Science (Psychology) (Honours) from the University of Queensland in 2011. She is currently a PhD student and research assistant within the Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. Kate is undertaking her PhD on “Endometriosis and women’s mental health.” Supervision is being provided by Dr Maggie Kirkman, Senior Research Fellow in the Jean Hailes Research Unit and Professor Jane Fisher, Director of Research at Jean Hailes. The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of women’s experiences of endometriosis, particularly the impact on mental health, in order to enhance the care provided to women with this disease.

Kate has previously worked for the Queensland Centre for Mothers and Babies, the University of Queensland. Her research interests include chronic health conditions experienced by women and the social, cultural and political context in which these conditions occur; health professionals’ perception of women’s experiences of various health conditions and how this affects the quality of care women receive; the circumstances and legal ramifications of women refusing medical advice when being provided with care for sex-specific health conditions; and  the dissemination of research findings to scholarly, professional, and community audiences.

Project Summary

Endometriosis is a disease experienced by 10% of Australian women and is associated with debilitating symptoms such as severe pelvic pain, bowel problems and infertility. There is no cure or effective long-term treatment. In this context of debilitating pain and few medical treatment options, it is not surprising that many women with endometriosis report mental health difficulties and emotional distress. Further, because the condition is so complex and poorly understood, many doctors may have had little experience of caring for women with endometriosis.

In the absence of effective medical treatment, the optimal course of action is to develop strategies that will assist women to live with this condition. In order to develop the evidence base for such interventions, a thorough understanding of women’s experiences of endometriosis is required. This study aims to understand women’s experiences of endometriosis, particularly the impact on mental health, in order to improve the care provided to women with endometriosis.

Women aged at least 18 years who live in Victoria and have been diagnosed with endometriosis will be invited to participate in this study. Up to 40 women with diverse experiences and backgrounds will be invited to participate in in-depth, one-on-one interviews about their experiences of endometriosis. General practitioners and gynaecologists who provide care to women with endometriosis will be invited to participate in the second part of this project. Up to 20 health professionals will be purposively sampled to represent various demographic and professional profiles. Semi-structured interviews will be used in order to understand their perceptions of the needs of women with endometriosis.

By increasing our understanding of women’s experiences of endometriosis, particularly the impact on mental health, this project will contribute to the evidence base needed to create effective interventions that will assist women to live with this condition. By investigating doctors’ needs for further knowledge about the implications of endometriosis for women’s mental health, it is likely that their care for women with this condition will be enhanced.

Supervisors: Dr Maggie Kirkman & Professor Jane Fisher