Annual Review
Evaluating and expanding community access to support for postnatal depression
— Case study

Evaluating and expanding community access to support for postnatal depression

The South West AHSN supported the University of Exeter to examine the impact of evidence-based training of individuals who support women with mild to moderate depressive symptoms/experiencing perinatal mental health disorders.

In England, access to effective treatments for post-natal depression (PND) is dependent on severity and complexity of symptoms. Recently, there has been significant investment in secondary mental health perinatal specific services for women with moderate to severe and complex mental health problems. In contrast, there is a gap in provision for those with mild to moderate and/or severe problems without associated complexity (e.g., social, economic, health and mental health complexity).

The training package had been previously evaluated but not the feasibility of rolling this out into community settings. The course is already accredited by the British Psychological Society for the purposes of continuing professional development and offered online over the period of three weeks. ​ 

The South West AHSN funded project tested the impact and feasibility of this evidence-based perinatal mental health training to upskill charitable sector healthcare professionals working in the community with women with mild to moderate PND symptoms. 

Our support was to enable Future Learn to explore the impact of the course on how women are supported postnatally, what components of the course were most useful for different professions taking part in the project, and any barriers to implementation individuals experienced in using their newly acquired skills.  

Next steps include: 

  • Supporting Future Learn to roll out their offer to a range of community settings through relationship building with local commissioners and LMNS’ 
  • Exploring opportunities for spread through the Best Start for Life Perinatal mental health funding award (Plymouth, Torbay and Cornwall were selected areas) 
Young woman talking to a therapist

The findings indicate that it is possible to upskill non-specialists by providing a brief online course that enables them to reach women confidently and effectively with mild-moderate PND symptoms in non-stigmatising ways, which could expand access to support in the community. 

  • The course was feasible and highly acceptable to complete alongside participants’ workload​ 
  • The course was effective in providing foundational knowledge and awareness skills of PND symptoms and support 
  • ​Those who had no prior training in parental mental health interventions would require additional supervision to embed skills in practice​ 
  • Participants in the focus groups reported having positive experiences and enjoyed the course  
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