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Ensler to Give Keynote Speech at Women's Mental Health Conference at Yale

September 10, 2019

Playwright, activist, performer, and feminist Eve Ensler, best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues,” will be the keynote speaker at the first Women’s Mental Health Conference at Yale to be held Friday, October 25, 2019, at Yale School of Medicine, 333 Cedar St.

The day-long conference is free and open to the public. Ensler’s talk, titled, “Women: Moving From Surviving to Thriving,” and a free book signing to follow will begin at 10:15 am in Mary S. Harkness Auditorium at Sterling Hall of Medicine. Conference registration is only for attendees who plan to participate in the full day’s activities, while the keynote and book signing do not require any registration.

The trainee-led conference is dedicated toward improving the wellbeing of women through better education of future healthcare professionals. It seeks to center issues of women’s wellbeing in the male-dominated healthcare professions. It is organized by Yale Department of Psychiatry trainees and students at Yale School of Medicine and other professional schools at Yale.

Ensler is globally renowned for her advocacy work on behalf of women. In 1998 she launched V-Day, a movement to stop physical and sexual violence against women and girls. She has raised tens of millions of dollars to prevent violence and protect abused women.

Ensler and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege also co-founded City of Joy, a transformational leadership community for women survivors of violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. A 2016 Netflix documentary of City of Joy follows the powerful journey of Congolese women survivors at the safe haven in violence-torn Congo. In 2019, Ensler also released her latest book, The Apology, which imagines a letter of apology that Ensler has longed to receive from her deceased father, who sexually abused her in childhood.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have her come to Yale,” said conference organizer Jacob Lister, an MD/PhD student at Yale School of Medicine who plans to specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. “It’s particularly exciting that she will be addressing this conference directly – speaking from her vast wisdom and experience advocating for women’s health and creatively expressing her own experiences, struggles, and processes of resilience.”

Ensler said she plans to discuss a range of topics during her keynote address, but that the theme will center on the mental health consequences of gender-based violence. She praised the conference organizers for providing a forum to discuss topics such as sexual trauma, interpersonal violence, women’s mental health, and intersectionality.

“The mental health of women always seems to be the last thing anyone thinks about when it is smack in the center of the story. It impacts every aspect of our emotional, social, physical, and psychological well being. It determines how we act, how we feel, how we think, or if we can think at all.” Ensler said. “I am so proud of the young women who have initiated this conference and I am thrilled to be joining them in creating an ethics and community of care for women at Yale.”

Ensler’s talk will be followed by a book signing, which is open to the public. Ensler’s books will be available for purchase outside the auditorium. Concurrent educational sessions will be held from 1:00 – 5:00 pm followed by an evening reception. “The diverse content of our sessions reflect the wideness of women’s mental health topics,” said conference co-founder Sofia Noori, MD, MPH, a resident at Yale Department of Psychiatry. “They fill the multiple gaps in our training as healers.”

Session topics include post-partum depression, screening and counseling for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, and the intersection of race, sexual orientation and gender on mental health.

The conference coincides with the 50th anniversary of the admission of the first women to Yale College, and the first anniversary of the national #MeToo movement.

“My motivation to organize this conference comes from the pressing need to foster open dialogue about issues of women's mental health and the dearth of attention these issues receive despite their high burden,” said Parmida Zarei, a student at Yale School of Public Health.

For more information and to register, please visit the Women’s Health Conference at Yale website.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on September 10, 2019