Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a therapeutic group programme, provided by community health workers, in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms associated with postnatal depression (PND) among women living in a rural setting.
Method: A prospective repeated measures design was used. Women reporting difficulties in the postnatal period were recruited through community health services. Training was provided to community health workers, who then facilitated a 9 week group programme (cognitive–behavioural strategies) for women with PND. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale measured depressive and anxiety symptoms before starting the group programme, at the completion of the programme and at two follow-up times.
Results: Fourteen women completed the group programme at two sites in rural Victoria. Comparison of mean anxiety and depressive symptom scores revealed a significant reduction in scores from pre- to post-programme. For those women who also completed the follow-up symptom measurement, this reduction in symptoms was maintained.
Conclusions: The results show that therapeutic group work is an effective intervention that can be applied by community health workers in a rural setting. Challenges for clinicians working with women experiencing PND in rural areas and implications for future research are discussed.