‘Life-saving’ Catherine’s House celebrates one-year milestone


A Brisbane mum has revealed how Queensland’s first dedicated centre for new parents experiencing mental health challenges ‘saved her life’ just weeks after her twins were born.

Ferny Grove mum Tegan Luker, 37, said the support she received at Catherine’s House for Mother’s, Babies and Families, located at Mater’s South Brisbane campus, helped her through some of the darkest moments in her life.

Mrs Luker began experiencing suicidal thoughts after giving birth to her twins Reuben and Hazel, now 11 months old.

Mrs Luker is one of more than 80 new mums to have been cared for by a multidisciplinary team at Catherine’s House since it opened one year ago this weekend.

One in five Queensland mothers and up to one in ten fathers experience perinatal mental health challenges in the first year after their baby’s arrival.

A partnership between Mater and Queensland Health has enabled Catherine’s House to deliver a dedicated in-patient unit with 10 rooms, where both public and private patients with acute perinatal mental health diagnoses can stay with their babies while receiving treatment and care.

Mrs Luker was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at Catherine’s House and was admitted for seven weeks at the centre with Reuben and Hazel by her side.

She said everything got a “bit much” after giving birth last March.

“I was not in a good way, I was referred to Catherine’s House after presenting to the Royal Brisbane Hospital,” Mrs Luker said.

“I was admitted within four days and was the third patient there.”

She said she was extremely grateful that the newly opened unit meant there was almost no wait time to receive the care she desperately needed.

Mrs Luker said she had never experienced anxiety or depression until her children were born.

“My husband and I have been married for 14 years and we both knew I wasn’t OK. My mood, thoughts, and behaviour were totally out of character. I didn’t realise until I presented at the Royal Brisbane Hospital just how bad things were, I just knew that everything seemed so overwhelming and that I wasn’t enjoying life,” she said.

“My twins were only six weeks old when I was admitted, and I don’t know how I would have coped without the support of Catherine’s House.

“I thankfully never wanted to hurt my babies – I just had intrusive thoughts of wanting to escape.”

She said tasks like taking the twins to a medical appointment would make her anxious and “derail the entire day”, knowing they would be due for a feed.

Catherine’s House Peer Support Workers Taryn Collins and Genevieve Heraghty connected with Tegan through sharing their own lived experience of perinatal mental illness and their personal journey to recovery.

Ms Collins shared her personal story with Mrs Luker and encouraged her to identify her strengths, even in the toughest of moments.

“We empowered and assisted Tegan to advocate for herself and her babies during her admission,” Ms Collins said.

She said Mrs Luker was provided with practical support for Reuben and Hazel as needed, including feeding, settling and playing.

“Catherine’s House enabled Tegan to build a confidence with her twins that she had struggled with previously, and to strengthen her bond with them,” Ms Collins said.

“Her recovery involved attending a range of allied health interventions as well as for the twins which included physiotherapy, psychology, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.”

Mater Young Adult Health Senior Manager Greg McGahan said Catherine’s House was made possible by $17.6 million in generous community donations to Mater Foundation.

Mr McGahan said Catherine’s House recently started delivering private day programs to support parents in developing skills to manage anxiety, depression and other challenges during early parenting years.

“We provide a range of clinical programs from outpatient community programs to inpatient beds, and also day programs,” Mr McGahan said.

He said a ‘New Dads’ program also supported dads to understand the signs and symptoms of perinatal anxiety, depression and acute stress, teaching improved self-awareness as well as sleep hygiene strategies.

“In the 12 months since opening, it has been amazing to hear from so many families whose lives have been changed since walking through the doors of Catherine’s House,” he said.

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