New mental health safe space for women

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Women suffering from trauma-related mental health issues will soon have access to a dedicated safe care facility – Australia’s first women’s stand-alone, trauma-informed mental health service.

Ramsay Clinic Thirroul in Wollongong, a new project established by Australia’s largest private hospitals operator, will be a 43-bed, women-only unit when it opens in August 2022.

Anne Mortimer, Director of Ramsay Mental Health Australia, said it would provide a safe environment where women can deal with trauma-related mental health disorders via specific evidence-based programs. 

Women are nearly twice as likely to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as men – 15.8 percent and 8.6 percent respectively – according to a 2007 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“There is a real shortage of women’s-only mental health facilities in Australia and we’re proud to be opening Australia’s first women’s-only standalone, trauma-informed mental health facility,” Ms Mortimer said.

“The specialist team at Ramsay Clinic Thirroul will understand the pervasive nature of trauma and the mental ill-health it causes and will provide a responsive environment that promotes healing and recovery.”

The clinic will also offer day patient programs for ongoing treatment and recovery, and become a training centre for psychiatric, medical, psychological and other allied health and nursing students. 

“This will help build a workforce for the future that is trauma-informed when managing complex mental health issues,” Ms Mortimer said. 

“We understand that mental health challenges look different for everyone, especially trauma-related mental health. Dedicated, trauma-informed care and practice principles will be utilised to ensure the best patient outcomes.”

Psychiatrist Dr Karen Williams

Psychiatrist Dr Karen Williams will lead a team of mental health clinicians experienced in the treatment of trauma disorders.

She described the clinic as “an absolute game-changer” that has already developed far beyond her initial hopes.

“The need for specialised services for women is enormous and I believe the clinic will be the single most significant change to the way we look at trauma-related mental illness in women,” Dr Williams said. 

“I initially approached Ramsay asking for a single ward to treat my female patients who had experienced trauma. Anne and her team at Ramsay Health Care listened to me describe just how badly we needed a facility that focused on trauma-related mental health issues in women, including childhood trauma, road crashes, family violence and sexual abuse and their reply was simply, ‘How about a whole hospital instead?’

I could not help but cry. 

“Our model is dedicated to setting a gold standard of care and providing treatment for the root causes of psychological ill-health, instead of always patching up the symptoms.”

The Thirroul clinic will open on the former Phillip Street site of Lawrence Hargrave Private Hospital, which has now closed and been merged with another Ramsay rehabilitation facility in the region, Figtree Private Hospital.

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