Infant and perinatal psychiatrist Dr Beth Mah has packed up her home in New South Wales and moved to Brisbane to take on the inaugural role of Director of Catherine’s House for Mothers, Babies and Families at Mater Hill.

Catherine’s House, to open early this year in the former convent, is Queensland’s first integrated perinatal mental health service where parents experiencing serious depression, anxiety and other mental health issues around the birth of their baby can stay with their infants while receiving treatment. 

The former Saint John of God Healthcare clinical lead psychiatrist said she had ‘goose bumps’ at the prospect of leading Mater’s new perinatal mental health centre and its team of health professionals.

“Catherine’s House will be helping women who are not well enough to be looked after in their own community,” Dr Mah, from Kangaroo Point, said.

“We will also admit mums who are suffering post-partum psychosis, which is a severe and debilitating illness that really interrupts family life, and mums who have complex and numerous diagnoses that often stem from childhood trauma, severe depression, and anxiety.

It makes me feel very proud and excited. I am so impressed with the huge body of work my colleagues have done over the past years to get this project to where it is today, close to opening.”

Dr Mah is the recipient of more than 10 research scholarships, including a grant from the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation for Neurofeedback for complex PTSD symptoms in Aboriginal foster children.

Catherine’s House will deliver a comprehensive, integrated perinatal mental health service including 10 in-patient beds for public and private patients, a Parent Support Centre for parents and babies up to six months after birth, a home-visiting service to help improve infant-parent relationships, individual and group therapy treatments and day programs.

Families will receive care from a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, lactation consultations, allied health practitioners, paediatricians, nurses, and other professionals.

More than $17m in community donations to Mater Foundation, as well as funding from the State Government, has enabled the former Sisters of Mercy convent to be transformed into a fit-for-purpose, custom-built facility.

Dr Mah, 56, said families admitted to Catherine’s House would grow in confidence as a parent while receiving support to manage their mental health issues.

“I want families to palpably feel that we respect their growth as a parent,” she said.

“We want them to use the time in our centre to settle the symptoms they are struggling with to become the kind of parent they want to be.

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