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A unique approach to supporting women’s mental health


On International Women’s Day, we talk to a woman who works tirelessly to support other women.

Dr Ingrid Butterfield is Medical Director of Cabrini Women’s Mental health. Located in the Lisa Thurin Women’s Health Centre at Elsternwick, it is the first private hospital of its kind in Australia.

Dr Butterfield was first drawn to psychiatry by her fascination with people.

“I like talking to people. I like people’s stories, I like understanding them,” she says.

“I like the fact that in psychiatry you actually look at the whole of the person. There’s almost nothing that isn’t relevant to psychiatry.”

Her role as medical director has a dual focus, which means she balances patient consultations and care with managing hospital administration and clinical governance.

“One of the things I like about (the role) is you’ve got the ability to actually do things to help people quickly,” Dr Butterfield says. “When you see a problem and you are able to fix it, that’s amazing.”

Having worked extensively in the public system, Dr Butterfield believes Cabrini Women’s Mental Health offers a safe and supportive environment where women can focus on their mental health journey.

“This place is very explicitly designed to be trauma-focused. We have deliberately tried to make it comforting and non-scary. We’ve tried to make it so that patients can come and go.

“Women’s only is an advantage, as a number of people come through who have had bad experiences on mixed wards.

Dr Butterfield has a special interest in the relationship between sleep and mental health, partially fuelled by her own experience having children.

“There’s quite a lot of evidence now, in mental health terms, it’s a bi-directional relationship. It’s not just that you get depressed and start sleeping poorly.

If you are sleeping poorly you are more predisposed to depression, manic episodes, and psychotic symptoms. Sleep changes and new symptoms can emerge.

“It’s one of those things patients really care about. People don’t come to you saying ‘I want my depression treated’.

“What they actually want is to feel better, to have more energy, be able to pay attention more, stop screaming at the kids or whatever. So people really care about getting enough sleep.”


To learn more about Cabrini Women’s Mental Health visit