Dr Angela Taft
Senior Research Fellow, Mother and Child Health Research, La Trobe University
beyondblue Strategic Research
Project completion year
Depression is closely linked to the incidence of partner violence. The period during pregnancy is a particularly high-risk time. There is evidence of the benefits of social support, home visiting and mentoring for the mental health of mothers, especially in disadvantaged communities.
The MOSAIC program provided one-on-one 'mother mentoring' for 12 months, for women in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs. The mentor’s support also aimed to increase the mother’s attachment to her children and her general wellbeing. Recognising the particular needs of women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, this study focused on women in these communities, in particular the Vietnamese community.
The mentor mothers were trained so they could provide suitable friendship, partner-abuse advocacy and support for parenting and depression, as well as information about other community services to the participants.
Participants were pregnant or new mothers who were either at risk of partner abuse or had experienced partner abuse and were referred to MOSAIC by GPs or maternal and child health (MCH) nurses. Of the 90 women who completed the initial trial, 26 completed the 12-month mentoring period.
MOSAIC recruited, trained and supported 62 volunteer mentor mothers, including 12 Vietnamese mentors. Not all were matched with participants, and the program had 44 mentors at the end of 2008.
The study found more than 85 per cent (of the 90 participants) were abused, just under half had experienced severe combined abuse and more than 85 per cent reported emotional abuse. More than 65 per cent were depressed, and levels of social support were lower than average.
MOSAIC conducted telephone interviews with 74 MCH nurses and 13 GPs during the study to find ways to improve methods of identifying and referring women to support services and to the study.
MCH nurses, including 121 from an additional two teams who joined the program in 2008, have been interviewed about the impact of MOSAIC on their practices and a survey of GPs is also underway. MOSAIC training was well received by nurses and GPs, but the ability to identify depression and refer patients for treatment is less than desired.
Implications for policy, practice and further research
A Mentor Training Manual has been prepared to inform services about the MOSAIC program, and to be used as a guide when similar mentoring programs are being considered.
A randomised trial with maternal and child health nurses on improving responses to intimate partner abuse and postnatal depression was conducted between 2009 and 2011. View the study protocol for more information.
A follow-up study to investigate long-term impacts of the program is being funded.