Mental Health Research
‘Perinatal Mental Health in Women of Refugee Background’
Monash University, VIC
“The implementation of this project will have a direct and significant impact on at-risk women as they will be screened and receive the mental health care they require.”
Rebecca Blackmore is a PhD student at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation based at Monash University in Victoria. Rebecca completed her Honours in Psychology at Bond University where her thesis publication was awarded a top four paper award from the National Communication Association in Chicago.
Prior to commencing her postgraduate study, Rebecca has worked as a Psychologist for over a decade in the field of schizophrenia research and childhood development. Her decision to undertake her thesis topic was driven by the current global refugee crisis. Her PhD project aims to determine the prevalence of mental health disorders in refugee populations across the world as well as being part of a team at Monash University and Monash Health that is implementing an innovative mental health screening program for women of refugee background during pregnancy. Her thesis will also provide important information on the performance and usability of recommended existing antenatal screening questionnaires in current Australian refugee population groups. Funding from the Ian Scott PhD Scholarship will allow Rebecca to continue this highly relevant work as well as to travel and share the results of her research.
This PhD project addresses a key gap in mental health care for women and families. The national, evidence based guidelines recommend for all women to be screened for mental health in pregnancy but this currently only occurs in limited health services in Victoria. Additionally, there are no programs that have been able to do this successfully in women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly in women from refugee backgrounds. A mental health screening program will be implemented at the Monash Health antenatal clinic and the Refugee Health and Wellbeing Service, both located in Dandenong, Victoria. All women attending their first appointment with a midwife will complete the recommended tool for mental health screening during pregnancy, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) using a digital platform developed by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE). Screening takes 5 – 10 minutes to complete and reports are created instantly providing scores and feedback for both the midwife and the woman. Appropriate referral pathways have been developed to ensure that women who score above the cut off are directed to the health services they require.
Through lengthier one-on-one diagnostic interviews with a sub sample of these women, this PhD project will also determine the prevalence of clinical depression, anxiety and PTSD in women from refugee background during pregnancy at Monash Health. The project will also investigate the reported prevalence in the research literature of depression, anxiety and PTSD in current refugee populations around the world, through the completion of a systematic review.
Supervisors: Dr Melanie Gibson-Helm, A/Prof Jacqueline Boyle & A/Prof Kylie Gray