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.

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

You can watch an overview here.


Women’s Mental Health Research Team

Team Leader
Professor Jayashri Kulkarni

Team Coordinators
Emmy Gavrilidis
Dr Caroline Gurvich

Research Fellow
Dr Rosie Worsley 
Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Lanka Corray 
Psychiatry Registrar 
Dr Hannah Cross 

Research Nurse
Heather Gilbert

Post Doctoral Researchers
Dr Jasmin Grigg
Dr Natalie Thomas
Research Assistants
Gayan De Mel
Amelia Arnold
Fiona James
WMH Clinic Coordinators
Cindy Yu
Michaela Corr

Dr Caroline Thew


Schizophrenia Treatments for Men and Women


We are currently recruiting for the following projects: 

VicHealth Smoking Harm Reduction Study

SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) Hormone treatment 

Smoking Cessation

Vaporising smoking-related harms in people with severe and persistent mental illness: A study
of the acceptability of vaporised nicotine products for smoking cessation or long-term
Research Team:  
                                 Prof. Jayashri Kulkarni, MAPrc
                                 Mr Anthony de Castella, MAPrc
                                 Dr Coral Gartner, University of Queensland
                                 Prof.  Ron Borland, Cancer Council Victoria
                                 Prof. Steve Kisely, University of Queensland
                                 A/Prof. Dan Siskind, University of Queensland
                                 Dr Lisa Brophy, University of Melbourne and MIND Australia
                                 Mr Gayan De Mel, MAPrc

1) To investigate if adding a tobacco harm reduction intervention to standard care for smoking cessation is an acceptable and attractive public health strategy for Victorian smokers with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI)

2) To provide pilot data to assist the design and planning of a fully-powered clinical trial

The study will:

1) Compare cigarette and nicotine product use among a) smokers with SPMI who are offered
Standard Care + Harm Reduction (SC+HR); and b) smokers with SPMI who are offered
Standard Care (SC) alone;
2) Explore whether access to novel Vaporised Nicotine Products (VNPs) and HR advice
increases/decreases interest in stopping smoking compared to the SC approach alone;
3) Determine which VNP is likely to have the greatest uptake by smokers with SPMI, if given
access to these products; and
4) Measure how smokers with SPMI use nicotine products (nicotine patches and VNPs).

 Funding for this study has been provided by VicHealth


For further enquiries please contact Gayan De Mel on tel: +61 03 9076 8045 




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


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.


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.


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


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.


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

Project status

The study is currently recruiting participants.

Study coordinator

Dr Natalie Thomas

For more information, please contact Natalie Thomas on (03) 9076 5033 or via email natalie.thomas@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

Memantine for CTD/BPD

NRAMP - The National Register of Antipsychotic Medication in Pregnancy



Double-Blind randomised investigation of Tibolone as an adjunct to standard antidepressant treatment for relapsed and persistent depression in peri- and post-menopausal women 

Aim: To examine the efficacy of a tissue-selective hormone treatment for menopausal depression.

Participants: Women between the ages of 45 and 65 years of age who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (Major Depression) or are currently experiencing depressive symptoms that have relapsed during peri or post menopause.  

Method: This is 12 week randomised controlled trial where participants will be randomly allocated to one of two study groups where they will receive either; 1) tibolone or 2) placebo daily. Researchers from the Women's Mental Health team will speak with participants fortnightly (over the phone) then monthly throughout the treatment trial to monitor how they are progressing.

Project status: Currently recruiting

Researchers: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Ms Emmy Gavrilidis, Dr Natalie Thomas, Dr Caroline Gurvich, Dr Rosie Worsley 

Study Coordinator: Dr Natalie Thomas

Contact information: For more information, please contact Natalie Thomas on natalie.thomas@monash.edu or 9076 5033

Memantine for CTD/BPD

Understanding Complex Trauma Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) and the Role of Memantine

Aims: To analyse the relationship between early life traumatic events and the expression of Complex Trauma Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder). The second part of the study aims to examine the efficacy of a cognitive enhancing agent, memantine, in improving symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
Participants: Women and men aged 18-65 with symptoms consistent with Complex Trauma Disorder.
Method: Participants will complete screening questionnaires that include a diagnostic test and questions regarding early trauma experience. Participants may then choose to enter an 8-week randomised control trial in which they will be assigned to take either 1) memantine 10<20mg/day or 2) placebo. Researchers will meet with participants fortnightly to monitor their progress (some of these visits can be done over the phone). 
Project status: Currently recruiting
Researchers: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Dr Caroline Gurvich, Ms Emmy Gavridilis, Dr Jasmin Grigg, Dr Natalie Thomas, Ms Amelia Arnold
Contact information: For more information, please contact Amelia Arnold via email amelia.arnold@monash.edu  or phone (03) 9076 6589
1. How To Treat: Borderline Personality Disorder (Australian Doctor). This article was originally published by Australian Doctor. To see other articles like this click here.
How to Treat BPD Aus Doc.pdf634.27 KB