Women's Mental Health

Mental illness has many gender-specific aspects that clinical research has not always addressed. For example, in conditions such as schizophrenia, the age of onset and pattern of symptoms commonly seen is different for women and men. Women and men may also respond differently to medications or other treatments. In addition, changes in the level of sex hormones such as estrogen are known to affect symptoms.

The Women’s Mental Health team is working on numerous aspects of women’s mental health, the experiences of women with mental illness and potential options for treatment. To find out more about current projects click here or for schizophrenia treatments for men and women click here. For information about our PTSD clinical trial, please click here.

One particular focus of our research is the role of the neuroendocrine system in mental illnesses, and specifically the use of female hormones to improve the results of treatment. We are conducting ground-breaking research into the use of estrogen to improve symptoms in schizophrenia and the use of selective brain estrogens in postmenopausal women. We are also exploring possible links between the oral contraceptive pill and depression.

Another important project is NRAMP, the National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy. This is the first register of its kind worldwide. NRAMP aims to create a database of information about the effects of antipsychotic medications taken during pregnancy and the postnatal period. More information about NRAMP is available here

 

Women’s Mental Health Research Team

 
Team Leader
Professor Jayashri Kulkarni

Team Research Manager
Emmy Gavrilidis
 
Team Strategic Research Director
Dr Caroline Gurvich
 
Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Carolyn Breadon
 
Consultant Endocrinologist
Dr Caroline Thew
 
Research Medical Officer
Dr Abdul Rahman Hudaib
  
Psychiatry Registrar 
Dr Sarah Rotstein 

Research Nurse
Heather Gilbert

Post Doctoral Researcher
Dr Natalie Thomas
 
Research Assistants
Gayan De Mel
Caitlin Bleeker
 
 
WMH Clinic Coordinators
Cindy Yu


 
 
 

 

Schizophrenia Treatments for Men and Women

 

We are currently recruiting for the following projects: 
 

SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) Hormone treatment 

SERM

Adjunctive SERM Hormone Treatment for Men and Women with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder

Background

Increasing evidence points to the protective role of estrogen in the brain, and for its positive effect on the symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. However, adverse effects on breast and uterine tissue in females, and feminisation of males, limit the long-term therapeutic use of estrogen in this population.

Raloxifene is a new hormone treatment that belongs to a group of medications called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). Raloxifene is thought to have positive estrogenic effects in the brain without affecting peripheral body tissue, thus offering a longer-term treatment approach with potential mental health and cognitive benefits, and few estrogen-related side effects.

Raloxifene for men as well as for women?

Although more commonly associated with women, estrogen is also a naturally occurring hormone in the bodies of men, and is already used clinically to reverse bone loss, enhance cardiovascular function and treat prostate cancer. The advantage of using raloxifene instead of estrogen in men is that the beneficial effects of estrogen can be experienced in the brain without the feminising side effects typically associated with hormone treatments.

Aim

To examine whether adding raloxifene 120mg/day to regular antipsychotic treatment can improve psychotic symptoms, and mood and cognitive functioning, for men and women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Participants

Men and women who are 18+, who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, are invited to take part in this study.

Methods

This study is a 12-week randomised controlled trial. Participants will be randomly selected to receive daily either 1) 120mg raloxifene, or 2) inactive placebo. Participants will meet with the study coordinator, Dr Jasmin Grigg, every two weeks to monitor psychotic and mood symptoms, and memory functioning will be assessed twice during the study. The occurrence of any unwanted side effects is also monitored.

Following completion of the trial, participants meet with the chief investigator, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, to discuss their study outcomes.

Reimbursement

Participants will be reimbursed for their time and travel can be negotiated.

Project status

The study is currently recruiting participants.

Study coordinator
Amelia Arnold

For more information, please contact Amelia Arnoldon (03) 9076 6589 or via email amelia.arnold@monash.edu

Women's Mental Health: current projects

The Women's Mental Health Team coordinates a number of treatment and intervention trials focused on the gender differences in psychiatric care.

 
We are currently recruiting for the following projects:

Tibolone for peri-menopausal depression

Treatment trial for Complex Trauma Disorder: The Alison Project

NRAMP - The National Register of Antipsychotic Medication in Pregnancy

 

Tibolone

 

Treatment Trial for Complex Trauma Disorder

 
 

New treatment trial for PTSD

 A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Phase II Study of BNC210 in Adults with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Aim: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of BNC210 in patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Method:  A total of 192 patients are planned to be enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The study will compare the effect of three different doses of BNC210 to placebo, on the symptoms of PTSD.  Patients will be treated for 12 weeks and will be assessed using a variety of psychiatric and cognitive assessment tools. 

Project status: This study is currently recruiting in Australia and will open soon in the USA. 

Study team: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor Paul Fitzgerald, Dr Matthew Kang, Dr Fenny Muliadi, Ms Fiona James

For more information, please contact Fiona James on fiona.james@monash.edu or (03) 9076 2404
 
 
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