NSW’s first public mother-baby unit for severe mental illness announced

NSW’s first public mother-baby unit for severe mental illness announced

By Rachael Wong

Postnatal psychosis is a serious mental illness that affects 1 to 2 women in every 1000 after childbirth. The condition can cause sudden and dramatic changes in a woman’s thinking, mood and behaviour including mood swings, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. Not many people know about this dangerous condition that can put mother and baby at risk and which almost always requires hospitalisation for the mother.

As part of the NSW Government’s $700 million Mental Health Infrastructure Program, it has been announced that new and expectant mothers facing conditions such as this will be able to access care alongside their babies in NSW’s first public specialist mental health unit, which will be built at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Each of the eight bedrooms at the unit will be able to accommodate a mother, up to two children under 12-months and a partner or family member. The unit will have space and equipment for antenatal care, a 24-hour respite nursery, a mothercraft room, a play area, a retreat area and communal areas for multiple families with children.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the specialised Mother and Baby Unit is a crucial development in the delivery of mental healthcare.

“We want women to receive the specialist mental health care they need, as well as the opportunity to form a bond with their babies in these all-important formative months," the Premier said.

NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said the unit would support up to 120 women a year with acute or ongoing severe mental illness in NSW.

"Perinatal mental illness can impact a parent's relationship with their baby, family dynamics and the ongoing development of a child. We want to ensure that women receive the best possible treatment, with their partners and family’s involvement, so children and families can thrive,” Mrs Taylor said.

The unit is expected to open by the end of 2021 and a second unit at Westmead hospital is also being planned. These are fantastic developments for women’s mental health, children’s welfare and family support in NSW.

Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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