Young Indigenous parents to benefit from mental health screening tool

May 11, 2018

Culturally safe: High Wycombe mother-of-three Tiahna Papertalk tests the 'Baby Coming – You Ready?' app

A screening tool developed for pregnant Aboriginal women is being praised by its users as providing a culturally safe space to discuss the social and emotional challenges they face.

'Baby Coming – You Ready?,' uses illustrations on an iPad, phone or laptop to open up and guide dialogue between expectant parents and doctors and nurses about how they are coping in the lead-up to their child’s birth.

Young parents testing the program, ahead of a roll-out of the pilot in September, are reporting a sense of security and trust being fostered by the two-way assessment tool which screens for perinatal (antenatal) and postnatal depression.

‘Baby Coming – You Ready?’ is based on a research project conducted at Murdoch University by PhD student Jayne Kotz with Aboriginal mothers and fathers from around the State, called 'Kalyakool Moort – Always Family'.

The tool was designed as an alternative model to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and is part of an early intervention strategy for expectant parents.

Research shows that Aboriginal women experience significantly higher levels of anxiety and distress than non-Aboriginal women of the same age during pregnancy.

Ms Kotz said Aboriginal people were traditionally not well screened during the perinatal period, and there was no evidence the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), which was developed in Scotland 40 years ago, was effective or culturally safe for Aboriginal families.

She said Aboriginal mothers and fathers were often younger than their non-Aboriginal counterparts and they faced sometimes complex emotional, financial and relationship issues on top of sleep disturbances, low mood and low energy.

"It’s important that young Aboriginal families get better access to support which makes them feel heard and which involves them in the dialogue,” Ms Kotz said. “The feedback we are receiving is that participants in the pilot project feel safer in opening up. They appreciate the plain language adopted and feel more in control and involved in the process.

“They have also indicated that they are more likely to attend their antenatal appointments if this new model is adopted.”

High Wycombe mother-of-three Tiahna Papertalk, 24, said the illustrations helped her understand her own emotions and were a good way to start a conversation with clinicians.

“It’s good to know that you have that option to talk about things,” Ms Papertalk said. “Sometimes, you don’t really know what you’re feeling, and seeing the pictures helps you understand yourself and your emotions. It makes things a lot clearer.”

Ms Kotz's PhD research received funding from the Ian Potter Foundation and is expected to be rolled out to antenatal services across the State in September.

The project was led by Professor Rhonda Marriott, Director of the Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity, part of the School of Psychology and Exercise.

Professor Marriott said the program was expected to achieve good results for mother, baby and clinician and would have a strong impact in closing the gap in perinatal care between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people, while improving birth and development outcomes for future generations.

"It encourages open engagement and self-evaluation, fostering understanding for both users," Professor Marriott said.

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Media contact: Connie Clarke
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