Perinatal mental health boost for struggling parents in remote Qld

A new Mater project to help new parents in remote and regional Queensland communities struggling with their mental health has been given a $750,000 funding kick start.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF) and the Australian Communities Foundation announced Mater as one of the first recipients of grants in PRF’s Strengthening Early Years, a program which aims to support families and children.

The grant was awarded to Mater Research Clinician Lead - Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Services Dr Grace Branjerdporn, who is driving the project called Training and Implementing Perinatal Peer workers (TIPP) in Remote Queensland.

“This grant will go directly to having perinatal peer workers in communities where access to mental health services isn’t easy and also create robust training for parents to become perinatal peer workers so that they can facilitate parenting programs,” Dr Branjerdporn said.

She said that in remote Queensland there were currently no perinatal peer workers and accredited training to become a perinatal peer worker was not available around Australia.

Perinatal peer workers will be rolled out in Central West Queensland regions including Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Boulia, Diamantina, Longreach and Winton, Cloncurry, Flinders or Richmond.

Dr Branjerdporn said over a four-year period, the project will involve developing a hybrid training program to upskill people with a lived experience of perinatal mental health to become perinatal peer workers.

“Perinatal peer workers are parents with mental health lived experience who provide support to other parents who have difficulties with mental health,” Dr Branjerdporn said.

“Perinatal peer workers have the advantage of understanding what the other parent is going through. They can share insights into recovery based on their own journey.

“Research demonstrates the benefits of perinatal peer workers in supporting parental mental health, parent-child attachment, child development and parenting practices.”

She said the first phase aims to develop a high-quality certification program to upskill new parents with a lived experience of perinatal mental health to become perinatal peer workers in rural settings.

The second phase includes implementing perinatal peer workers in remote Queensland who will provide day programs focused on perinatal mental health, child development, and healthy coping strategies.

“The Perinatal Peer Worker Project is specially designed for new parents in rural and remote Queensland to receive support from other parents who have been ‘in the same boat’ as them,” Dr Branjerdporn said.

The project seeks to develop a face-to-face and online Australia-wide training program to upskill people with a lived experience of perinatal mental health to be credentialed as perinatal peer workers.

Catherine’s House Medical Director Dr Beth Mah welcomed the grant which follows the recent announcement that Catherine's House for Mothers, Babies and Families, an inpatient perinatal mental health service at Mater’s South Brisbane campus which will open next year.

“Mater is the largest private health provider in Queensland, delivering comprehensive public and private healthcare services across 10 hospitals, including Mater Mothers’ Hospital, Australia’s largest maternity service,” Dr Mah said.

“Mater is a leading provider of interprofessional healthcare education and training, with world-class clinical simulation programs, facilities and faculty. This project also partners with a perinatal peer worker agency and a rural health service.”

PRF’s Head of Early Childhood and program lead Hannah Barber said the successful organisations were all dedicated to supporting parents, caregivers and children experiencing disadvantage in the first one-thousand days of a child’s life.

“Ensuring that parents and caregivers have what they need to feel supported in the challenging early days of a child’s life is critical to establishing future pathways for the child’s health and development,” she said.

“We were impressed by the range of innovative approaches within these programs designed to strengthen relationships between parents or caregivers and children, which we know is extremely important.”

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