Research projects

An investigation into the effectiveness of the beyondblue National Rural Workforce Training Program delivered through a Primary Care Partnership in rural Victoria

Principal Researchers

Associate Professor David Pierce,

Associate Professor Julie Pallant

Institution

School of Rural Health, The University of Melbourne

Funding

$29,620

Project completion year

2009

Project brief

This project aimed to investigate the effectiveness of community workshops for increasing knowledge and awareness of depression in rural areas, especially drought-affected rural areas.  The project also aimed to increase awareness of evidence-supported treatments for depression and promote confidence to effectively respond to depression.

Members of rural community groups were supplied with beyondblue information about depression and related disorders that had been modified from material developed for the workplace.  The original material aimed to provide workplace managers with the information and skills to identify signs of depression in their colleagues, intervene and offer help when necessary, and manage individuals experiencing depression in a team environment.  The modified material was used in a series of community workshops in rural Victoria.  Presenters were mental health professionals trained in workshop leadership, provided by beyondblue.

The project investigated the impact of these workshops and explored the response of participants to material that had been developed for another setting.  Five community groups were recruited from rural Victorian towns ranging in size from fewer than 500 residents to more than 20,000.  Some of the groups had a health promotion focus.

Pre- and post-questionnaires, focus groups and detailed project observation were used to elicit and measure responses.

Valid pre- and post-workshop data was obtained from questionnaires completed by 38 and 25 participants respectively, and 13 people participated in two focus groups.  Most participants were female, between 40 and 65 years of age, and attended as individuals rather than as community leaders.  Among the participants, 12 per cent reported experiencing current depression, 32 per cent reported previous treatment for depression, and 71 per cent reported that a family member or close friend had been treated for depression.

Key findings

The workshops should be considered an appropriate way to communicate information about depression and related disorders in rural areas.  Depression and anxiety were perceived as important disorders with significant impact.  A prominent finding was strong enthusiasm from group members to learn more about depression and related disorders.

A statistically significant decrease was noted in the number of participants who agreed with the statement “stress and depression are much the same” after the workshops, compared to before the workshop.  Similarly, reluctance for social engagement with a person experiencing depression decreased after the workshops, with the exception of accepting a person with depression marrying into family.

Participants reported statistically significant increases in their knowledge of depression and confidence in responding to depression in themselves or others.  Most participants felt their level of knowledge of depression and confidence had markedly increased between the pre-workshop assessment and six months later.

Specific needs of rural residents emerged as an important component of such workshops.  A large proportion considered that the workshops met their expectations and needs.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

This study suggested that workshops providing information about depression and related disorders developed for use in the workplace were well accepted when delivered within rural community organisations.  Further similar workshops should be considered, with existing community groups used as the platform.

The differences the rural participants perceived between their needs and those of urban residents should be considered when developing future workshops in rural areas.

Further research could investigate whether the benefits of workshop participation extended beyond the participants to their immediate family and community contacts.

Males and young people, who were under-represented in this project, should be targeted for inclusion in future workshops.

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