First women-only mental health facility for DV-related PTSD to open

First women-only mental health facility dedicated to DV-related PTSD to open in August

mental

Australia will open its first ever women’s hospital for treating post-traumatic stress disorder in women recovering from domestic and family violence in August.

The Ramsay Clinic, based in Thirroul, a northern seaside suburb of the city of Wollongong in NSW, will offer 43-beds, as well as inpatient and outpatient services.

As the first women-only mental health facility dedicated to the psychological and psychiatric consequences of trauma, Jane Caro, who is standing for the Senate as a candidate for Reason Australia said she is excited that dedicated advocacy and leadership has led to the opening of this clinic.

“We need initiatives like this, which support vulnerable people who are falling through the cracks in our society, to be available to everyone who needs them,” Caro said. “That’s why I’m running for election to the Senate, so I can make a real difference.”

Caro credits the persistent work of psychiatrist Dr Karen Williams for the clinics’ operation. 

“Dr Williams was horrified that police and other ‘first responders’ to violent domestic violence incidents received government and employer supported treatment for PTSD, but the victims and family members directly affected receive no support at all,” Caro said.

“I was so disturbed by this unfairness. Through Dr Williams’ own determination she gained allies in the College of Psychiatry, and eventually an opportunity to put her arguments to the Director of Ramsay Health, Anne Mortimer.”

“I ranted at her for 45 minutes about the need for a specialist women-only ward, staffed by trauma-trained professionals. When Anne Mortimer said, “What if I give you a hospital?” I burst into tears.”

Dr Williams attributes a large part of the problem to women being misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) —  a highly stigmatised condition without a cure.

One of her patients, named Bianca, believes the new facility is critical for helping women suffering from the consequences of domestic and family violence.

“It’s so important to have the trauma centre and hospital for women,” she said. “I spent years feeling ashamed that there was something wrong with me, until finally someone said, ‘No, it’s complex PTSD.’”

Bianca was diagnosed with BPD within 10 minutes of being seen by a psychologist who had no knowledge of her trauma.

Dr Williams and Ramsay Health are looking to develop the hospital as a model for treating domestic violence survivors with complex PTSD, and hope the model will be ‘scaled up’, with similar treatment services set up around Australia. 

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