Queensland’s first dedicated centre for new parents experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges has opened at Mater’s South Brisbane campus.
Catherine’s House for Mothers, Babies and Families will provide urgently-needed specialist perinatal mental healthcare to Queensland mothers and fathers diagnosed with mental health conditions around the time of the arrival of their new baby.
One in five Queensland mothers and up to one in ten fathers experience perinatal mental health challenges in the first year after their baby’s arrival, and existing services are unable to meet demand.
A partnership between Mater and Queensland Health has enabled the establishment of Catherine’s House to deliver a dedicated in-patient unit with 10 rooms, where both public and private patients with acute perinatal mental health diagnoses can stay with their babies while receiving treatment and care.
The facility, which is integrated with the world-leading Mater Mothers’ Hospitals, will also support hundreds of new Queensland families each year through a range of day programs, group and individual treatments, home-visiting services and emotional well-being support.
Mater Group Chief Executive Dr Peter Steer said the opening of Catherine’s House marked a new era in the care of Queensland women and families.
“Mater has been caring for Queensland mothers and babies for more than a century, and Catherine’s House marks an important milestone in the ongoing support we deliver to families across this state,” Dr Steer Said.
“This new service is meeting an urgent need in our community, with suicide sadly remaining the leading cause of death for new mothers.[i]
“Perinatal mental health issues also place babies at risk of many adverse consequences, such as low birth weight, premature birth and emotional difficulties.”[ii]
Catherine’s House is located in Mater’s redeveloped heritage convent building and was made possible by $17.6 million in generous community donations to Mater Foundation, as well as a $7 million capital contribution from the Queensland Government.
The State Government is also providing $11m in annual operational funding to provide eight publicly funded beds in the in-patient unit.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the opening of Catherine’s House was a landmark moment for perinatal mental health in Queensland.
“The Queensland Government is committed to helping mothers and their babies and I’m incredibly proud of the role Catherine’s House will play in meeting the growing demand for services from those impacted by perinatal mental health disorders,” she said.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the eight public in-patient beds at Catherine’s House will add to the four at Gold Coast University Hospital’s Lavender Mother and Baby Unit – ensuring mothers can stay with their babies while receiving safe and compassionate assessment and treatment.
“A key part of the Queensland Government’s Better Care Together plan released last year was a $122 million investment in initiatives to transform, optimise and grow services to support the mental health and wellbeing of new parents and infants,” Ms D’Ath said.
“The opening of Catherine’s House will do exactly that.”
Brisbane mum of three Harriet Sutton, 37, knows all too well the challenges of parenthood after living with perinatal mental health issues for four years without treatment.
“I didn’t realise until after I had my third child that something was really wrong – I had postnatal depression and anxiety,” Mrs Sutton said.
“My heart raced so much I couldn't get to sleep, despite being exhausted. There were moments when I thought I would explode. I was scared of myself and how my anger would manifest.”
Mrs Sutton, a former ADF officer, was admitted to a private mother-baby unit, which she said “changed my life and the lives of my husband and children.
“Catherine’s House is going to change so many lives immeasurably,” she said. “I am so excited for the life-changing support Catherine's House will provide mothers and babies at a critical time."
“My life has changed and I count myself as one of the lucky ones. We know that mothers put their own health last – it took me a long time to admit to myself I wasn’t coping.”
Catherine’s House has been named in honour of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, who opened the first Mater hospital in Brisbane in 1906.
The refurbished convent has retained many of the heritage features of the original 1920s building and has been transformed into a three-level, contemporary, fit-for-purpose facility with practitioner consulting suites, group therapy rooms, an outdoor garden area and more.
The first patients are expected to be admitted to Catherine’s House In-Patient Unit next month.
Services at Catherine’s House for Mothers, Babies and Families
- In-Patient Unit – Providing assessment and treatment for primary carers diagnosed with mental health conditions such as postpartum psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and/or depressive disorder – and their babies.
- Day Programs – Delivering individual and group therapy treatments on-site to new parents.
- Parent Support Centre – Providing early parenting guidance in the first six months after birth, including support with breast-feeding, feeding, sleep, emotional well-being and other issues to Mater mothers.
- Parent Aide Unit – Providing at-home support with trained volunteers to improve the health and wellbeing of Mater families.
- Individual Consultation – Public and private consultations with a range of practitioners.
[ii] Stein, A., Pearson, R.M., Goodman, S.H., Rapa, E., Rahman, A., McCallum, M., Howard, L.M. and Pariante, C.M., 2014. Effects of perinatal mental disorders on the fetus and child. The Lancet, 384(9956), pp.1800-1819.