The call for female-only mental health wards

Room 108, Level 1
Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street
Carlton VIC 3053

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Cassie Chen

Mental health advocates have increasingly called for female-only areas in mental health settings. Reported benefits include improving the safety and experience of women in crises, including reducing incidents of sexual assault. Some reports indicate almost half the women admitted to Victorian hospitals' psychiatric units had been sexually assaulted.

On the 2nd of November the Disability Research Initiative will host an evening seminar exploring the call to reinstate female-only spaces in mental health support settings. As well as hearing from two prominent speakers in the field, a panel discussion will take place with advocates for women’s health, disability justice and human rights.

Prof. Jayashri Kulkarni commenced her appointment as Professor of Psychiatry, The Alfred and Monash University in 2002.  She directs a large psychiatric research group, the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre (MAPrc), dedicated to discovering new treatments, new understanding and new services for people with a range of mental illnesses.
Jayashri Kulkarni completed her MBBS degree in 1981 at Monash University, became a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in 1989 and was awarded a PhD from Monash University in 1997 for her thesis “Women and Psychosis”.  Jayashri has pioneered the novel use of estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia and is internationally acknowledged as a leader in the field of reproductive hormones and their impact on mental health. She is the President – elect of the International Association of Women’s Mental Health, beginning her term in 2017.

Sue Armstrong has been a fine artist and passionate advocate for the reinstatement of female only psychiatric wards since 1990. Sue is the Founder and Chairperson of Mixed Nuts Media Inc, an arts, video training and production organisation by and for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Following the short presentations by Prof Kulkarni and Ms Armstrong, a group of panellists will convene chaired by Dr Lisa Brophy:

Dr Lisa Brophy is currently Director of Research at Mind Australia and Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne. Lisa has a professional background in Social Work and a career long commitment to the mental health field of practice.

Our panellists:

Tricia Malowney is proud to be a woman with a disability who works to make society better and safer. Her roles have included: president, Disability Services Board; member, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and deputy chair, Victorian Disability Advisory Council. In 2007, she became chair of the board of Women with Disabilities Victoria. In 2013, Tricia Malowney was inducted on to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for her role in advocating for the rights of women with disabilities.

Dr Sabin Fernbacher is passionate about working collaboratively on systemic change to increase gender sensitivity/safety and trauma informed care. To do this, she works across sectors, in service and policy development, research and workforce development. She currently works in the Mental Health Branch/DHHS and usually at the Northern Area Mental Health Service