New hope for mums and bubs in need


St John of God Health Care's official opening of its Raphael Centre in Blacktown
St John of God Health Care's (SJGHC's) official opening of its Raphael Centre in Blacktown: Centre Clinical Supervisor Professor Bryanne Barnett (left) Centre Manager Maya Drum, SJGH Group CEO Dr Michael Stanford, SJGHC Richmond Hospital CEO Allison Campbell and SJGHC Executive Director NSW Services Ramon del Carmen.

By Peter Gresser

St John of God Health Care has opened NSW’s first Raphael Centre in Blacktown, offering community-based free outpatient perinatal and infant mental health services for disadvantaged local families.

If you’ve just felt the need to google ‘perinatal’, you’re not alone: in fact, raising community awareness of the issues which may arise for mothers during the perinatal phase (the period between conception and the first year of a child’s life) is a key reason why the establishment of the centre is so critical.

Many women experience psychological and social difficulties during pregnancy which may have been present for a long time but remained unrecognised,” said Professor Bryanne Barnett, an international pioneer of perinatal mental health and Clinical Supervisor at the new Blacktown centre.

“During the perinatal period, more than 10 to 16 per cent of Australian women are affected by anxiety or depression, or both…and many do not fully recover,” Professor Barnett said. “Factors at play can include a lack of practical, financial or emotional support, a past history of abuse, loss and trauma difficulties in close relationships, making work adjustments, anxiety and depression.

“All women seek medical advice during pregnancy or when they have an infant, so it’s the perfect time for us to be looking at the complete woman in her personal context. With this new Raphael Centre, we have the opportunity to identify problems, anticipate difficulties that may arise in parenting and work with the family to manage them.”

Manager of the new centre, Maya Drum, said maternity services were becoming much more aware of the highly specialised nature of perinatal care, and that the new Raphael Centre was playing an active role on the ground in Blacktown, providing education and training to General Practitioners, obstetricians, midwives and other heath services professionals.

“Part of the education process is understanding that many practitioners already posses the skills and knowledge to identify perinatal issues in their patients,” Maya said. “A lot of what we’re doing is assisting professionals with the right questions to ask – and how to ask them.”

Professor Barnett agreed, saying that in terms of both maternity services and the wider community, the greatest role the new centre will play in the local area is one of fostering the idea of the early intervention and prevention.

Compassion and openness for those seeking help

Bishop Manning blesses the new SJGHC Raphael Centre in Blacktown
Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning DD, with Centre Manager Maya Drum during the blessing of the new Raphael Centre in Blacktown. Photo courtesy of Blacktown Sun.
The Raphael Centre was officially opened on 18 August and blessed by Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning DD. St Patrick’s Blacktown Parish Priest Fr Peter Confeggi provided a scriptural reading as part of the ceremony.

“Lord, may this centre provide excellent clinical support and personal encouragement for parents affected by anxiety and depression pre and post the birth of their child,” Bishop Manning said in his blessing. “Bless the Raphael Centre’s caregivers as they proclaim your presence in the work they do. Empower them with a sense of compassion and openness to all who come to this place seeking healing.”

The centre is being sponsored and managed by St John of God Hospital Richmond. St John of God Health Care is a leading health care provider with hospitals, pathology and social outreach and advocacy services throughout Australia, New Zealand and the wider Asia Pacific region.

The St John of God Raphael Centre at Blacktown will provide outpatient perinatal and infant mental health services to families needing support during pregnancy or following the birth of their baby up to four years of age, at no or minimal cost.

According to Maya Drum, Blacktown was chosen as the site of NSW’s first Raphael Centre due to its location in a corridor of high maternity rates within what is the state’s fastest population growth area.

Maya said that while most people in need would come into contact with the centre via referrals, the centre is happy provide referral advice to local residents who contact the centre direct on 02 9839 0900.

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