Over recent decades, strong evidence has emerged that the foundations for a child’s growth and development are laid in the early years, from conception to around age 3. Perinatal mental health issues (PIMH) can impair a parent’s ability to provide responsive care to their child, and a range of issues can interfere with the development of a secure attachment relationship between parent and infant.
Preventing long-term negative impacts on the child’s development requires an integrated approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of parents, infant and family. However, such integrated service delivery can be difficult to achieve in rural and remote environments.
A pilot project entitled e-PIMH was developed and delivered by the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH), Children’s Health Queensland, in 2016, with funding from the National Perinatal Depression Initiative. The project operated in the four most rural Hospital and Health Services in Queensland.
Using a combination of site visits, face-to-face training, videoconferencing, phone and email, the project provided centralised support for government, non-government and private organisations working with parents, infants and families. Workers were offered non-clinical advice and support, training and education, and assistance to strengthen local linkages and referral pathways, with the aim of providing more integrated support for perinatal and infant mental health in rural and remote areas.
Preliminary project evaluation identified significant increases in self-reported knowledge of perinatal and infant mental health issues (17% to 47%) as a result of engaging with e-PIMH. Between 80% and 90% of respondents identified that e-PIMH improved their awareness of perinatal and infant mental health and provided resources that helped them in their work with clients.
Regarding sustainability, 94% of respondents (n=36) identified a strong need for a model of support like e-PIMH, and 87% (n=31) felt there was a good fit between e-PIMH and their current service delivery.
These results, in conjunction with anecdotal feedback, reinforce the potential effectiveness of a telehealth model for perinatal and infant mental health workforce capacity-building in rural and remote areas.
Results from the e-PIMH pilot will inform planning for perinatal and infant mental health service development in rural and remote Queensland from 2017.
For more information on this topic, please visit the QCPIMH website.