S67: Perinatal Mental Health and Peer Support Work: Complexities, rewards, and challenges…

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By September 12, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Vivianne Kissane, Rani Farmer, Aleksandra Staneva

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Perinatal Mental Health and Peer Support Work: Complexities, rewards, and challenges...

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Aleksandra Staneva Research PhD (Psych), MRes (Psych), BA Hons. (Psych). Aleksandra’s research explores the experience of distress during pregnancy and early motherhood with a focus on the ‘perfect’ and ‘bad mother’ social constructs, and how they affect women’s experiences of mental illness. She is interested in developing meaningful sensitive, and matro-centric programs to support women with complex needs in the perinatal period, drawing extensively from women’s input, after having dealt with postnatal distress herself. Aleks teaches courses in Health Psychology and Public Health at UQ; she has published widely on the topic of mothering in numerous Psychology, Midwifery, and Nursing journals, and is the Lived Experience Research Lead at Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness.

Rani Farmer is Operations Manager of Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness, a Brisbane-based, Peer-led charity supporting families experiencing perinatal mental health challenges. Rani is a strong advocate for perinatal emotional wellness and is committed to raising awareness through clinician and community education, delivering lived-experience workshops and presentations to a broad range of audiences. Passionate about fostering secure attachment relationships between caregivers and their children, Rani is a registered Circle of Security Parent Educator and is currently completing a Master of Primary Maternity Care.

Community-based peer support work (PSW) has been demonstrating great promise in facilitating recovery in mental health care settings. We will explore a background of the literature on the role of PSW specific to the perinatal and infant mental health space, drawing on our own experience of providing peer-led support to mothers in a community-based organization in Brisbane (Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness). Specific focus will be placed on exploring the nature of PSW, the values underpinning such service delivery, and the enablers and barriers to both consumers (mothers) and peer support workers themselves.

Mothers experiencing perinatal mental health issues do not seek help until they ‘cannot cope anymore’ (COPE, 2017) primarily due to stigma. Peer-led support has been shown to reduce feelings of isolation and overwhelm, while reinforcing hope and social connection. Despite some challenges related to providing PSW, both mothers and peer facilitators share the unique benefit of ‘being heard’ and ‘not alone’ in their recovery journeys.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: This presentation will provide in-depth knowledge of the complexity of PSW’s role in the perinatal and infant mental health area, including the rewards and challenges it presents;
Learning Objective 2: This topic is relevant to perinatal mental health services providing care to a particularly vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ population struggling with not only stigma associated with mental illness but also societal expectations related to mothering.

COPE (2017) Centre for Perinatal Excellence.Perinatal Guideline – Effective Mental Health Care in the Perinatal Period: Australian Clinical Practice Guideline.

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