The Langmore Centre in Berwick will have a dedicated Perinatal Mental Health Unit which will open in mid-2022.

Perinatal Mental Health week runs from November 7-13 and this year’s focus is on “Breaking Down Barriers”. While PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) has experienced a 50 per cent increase in calls to its national hotline over the past year, the not-for-profit group sees this as a positive step forward and one that indicates that Australian families are no longer trying to manage their mental health concerns alone.

However, the need for access to mental health services still exists and it’s a demand St John of God Health Care (SJGHC) is actively intending to meet. After careful collaboration with patients, medical practitioners, GPs and local community members, SJGHC established that inpatient perinatal mental health care is severely underserviced in the Casey area and of the utmost importance to the people of Melbourne’s south east. 

Image: Langmore Perinatal Lounge.

“We know there are new parents suffering in this region with limited services,” explains Langmore Centre, in Berwick, CEO, Linda Allen. “It’s our responsibility to ensure we can provide the services needed to fill that gap for the community. And from mid-2022, our dedicated Perinatal Mental Health Unit will offer inpatient care for expecting parents, as well as parents and their babies, in private, cosy and welcoming accommodation, where access to specialised mental health clinicians will help with their recovery and assist in learning how to live well together as a new family.” 

SJGHC’s former Gibb Street hospital is currently undergoing an extensive $18.2m redevelopment to convert and expand the existing site to meet a broad range of mental health needs. While it already offers expertise in the treatment of addiction, anxiety and depression at its Pinelodge Clinic in Dandenong, SJGHC is proud to be adding a 12-bed dedicated perinatal mental health unit to its mix of mental health services. The new Langmore Centre will see all of these services offered under the one roof in the new Gibb Street facility which will also include private room accommodation for inpatients, day-programs for outpatients, a neuro stimulation suite for ECT and TMS treatments, in-house dining facilitates and therapy rooms, including specialised art rooms, internal courtyards, a café, gym and chapel.  

Lisa Norman, CEO SJG South East Melbourne Hospitals, believes the vision to provide perinatal mental health services is the first of its kind for this area and will enable SJGHC to offer a comprehensive focus on patient needs from head to toe. “As an organisation we’ve always involved ourselves in the community and responded to community need. This is reflected in the types of services we offer and the social outreach partnerships we form at a local level. The Langmore Centre will complement our broad suite of services, across our various sites in South East Melbourne, allowing us to provide whole-person care for our community from birth through to senior years.”

The statistics speak for themselves. As many as one in five expecting or new mums, and one in 10 expecting or new dads, experience perinatal anxiety or depression in the lead up to becoming a parent and/or during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. Couple that with the fact that 5,321 babies born in the City of Casey during 2018-2019 — and that’s a lot of new and expecting parents at risk of suffering from a variety of mental health conditions in this region.

While pregnancy and new parenthood is an exciting time, it can also be challenging. And it’s important for expecting and new parents to know that perinatal mental illness is common, but also very treatable. “Our spacious and light-filled private rooms will allow patients to have a safe and homely space to care for their own mental health needs while continuing to bond with their baby,” explains Linda. “In addition to the peaceful and harmonious environment for our patients to experience, our clinicians will be there to help new and expecting parents learn how to set realistic expectations and create achievable goals in their role as a parent. We’re very much looking forward to opening our new facility next year,” admits Linda. “It’s not only an opportunity for us to adequately serve the needs of this community, it’s about heavily investing in an important and crucial public health issue that SJGHC is extremely proud to be supporting.”