Women Helping Women: A Tradition of Healing and Hope

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center hosts the 20th Annual Women Helping Women luncheon Friday, May 18, 2018, at Embassy Suites. Attendees are treated to a delectable lunch while honoring female community leaders. Women Helping Women began in 1999 with a mission to support women and girls who lack financial resources to access mental health services. The first event was held in the Kelley Conference Room, Methodist Conference Center on Thursday, March 18, 1999. One hundred women attended. Since then, the initiative has raised over $1 million. Last year, the event was held May 19 at Embassy Suites with 500 women in attendance.

In 2017, the fund helped over two thousand women access the services of Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. The fund is available for counseling and many other services, programs, and classes. Clients access the fund through their counselors.

I connected with Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center using the now-largely-forgotten relic, the telephone book yellow pages. The name of the center had an air of spirituality that spoke to me. The array of offerings attesting to the Center’s holistic approach to client-centered mental health services impressed me. I perused the Center’s website and read all the counselor profiles, then called for an appointment. I appeared on the Center’s doorstep January 15, 2013, uninsured. My counselor worked with me to develop a workable sliding fee for counseling services.

Women and girls face unique challenges in mental health issues. Women may develop harmful coping strategies such as eating disorders, prescription drug dependence such as the use of opioid medications, risky sexual behaviors, and self-injury. There is a tendency in our busy society to view stress as a normal part of life, and women are expected to accept their responsibilities stoically. Frequently, they must juggle several stressors, with little or no active support, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Post-partum depression
  • Menopause and midlife changes
  • Single-parent household
  • Caring for aging parents
  • Sexual abuse and trauma
  • Emotional abuse
  • Grief
  • Working outside the home

Each one of these stressors can upend a woman’s life. When two or more combine, they become daunting and formidable.

Single women with children are especially vulnerable as they are more likely to have fewer financial resources and face greater barriers to health care, including mental health services. Barriers include lack of reliable transportation and lack of reliable and affordable child care options. According to SAMHSA—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—women’s mental health can impact their relationships with family members and friends and influence how they raise their children. Women’s mental health directly impacts children, who face their own particular life challenges. Some women face additional barriers to mental health care because they do not know help is available, or they may feel ashamed or embarrassed or frightened about what mental health services entail. Cultural and personal beliefs further complicate access to mental health care.

Women Helping Women Luncheon 2017

Diane Glass, a spiritual director for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s powerful two-year spiritual enrichment program, Prairie Fire, has attended eight of the last ten Women Helping Women luncheons. She said she identifies with the cause, recognizing the crucial need for counseling as women face life issues—parenting, work life, intimate relationships, finances, running a household, and much more. Attendance at the luncheon increases every year which Diane said speaks to an awareness of the needs of women and girls in central Iowa. She said she enjoys seeing friends at the luncheon, networking, and feeling a part of a community of caring, supportive women. She highly praised the speakers and honorees at the event, community leaders who inspire and empower virtually everyone they encounter. Diane also noted that the event raises the visibility of the Center, allowing it to showcase its numerous services.

In addition to counseling for adults, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center offers:

  • Specialized counseling for children and adolescents
  • Psychiatry (medication management)
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Biofeedback therapy and other holistic approaches
  • Training for clinical professionals
  • Spiritual direction
  • Career counseling
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming including Prairie Fire mentioned above
  • A variety of classes and workshops

I will attend the Women Helping Women luncheon this year as the guest of friends. I am looking forward to a well-prepared lunch, an enlightening presentation, and time with my delightful friends as well as the opportunity to meet new people.

The Women Helping Women Luncheon is held annually, but the Center accepts donations for the fund year-round. Contact the Center at 515-274-4006 and ask for Terri Speirs or visit the website at https://dmpcc.org/support-dmpcc/women-helping-women-fund/.


Billie Wade, writer

Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.