Phase 2: Peer Facilitated Group Support for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Project Details

  • Departments/Divisions: Family Practice Obstetrics
  • Physician Leads: Dr. Shana Johnston, Family Practice Obstetrics
  • Budget: $6,330.00

About the Project

In early 2021, Dr. Shana Johnston was awarded SIFEI funding to partner with Pacific Post Partum Support Society (PPPSS) in arranging a local pilot to study the impact of their support for 10 perinatal people in our area. Based in Vancouver, PPPSS is a grassroots organization providing peer support for perinatal mental health for over 50 years. A local peer (person with a lived experience of postpartum distress) was trained by and partnered with a peer mentor from PPPSS to co-facilitate the Victoria pilot. The pilot was successful in showing the impact of this very cost-effective support for perinatal mental health. Scores for support and isolation steadily improved over the course of the program and EPDS (Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale) scores improved by over 50% from the beginning to the end of the program. The peer facilitators provide cost effective support at only $20-25 per hour, substantially less than if the groups were run by a physician, nurse or counsellor. As Phase 1 of her project concluded, Dr. Johnston had secured a Health System Redesign grant to engage with Island Health on possible mechanisms for funding this program and embedding it within the existing system.

A year and a half later, Dr. Johnston has encouraging progress to report. She’s worked closely with Keva Glynn from Mental Health and Substance Use and Gillian Kozinka from Perinatal Services at Island Health to advocate for sustainable funding for these group sessions. At the time of writing, they have secured funding for 2 virtual groups to proceed and are in the process of moving through the necessary paperwork before launching the 2 virtual groups in the very near future.

“Having two champions within the health authority has made all the difference”, says Dr. Johnston. “Without them, the project would have struggled to continue”. Both of these champions were clear from the beginning that they were in support of this cost-effective, high impact program. The challenge was navigating a new path through an existing system.

Dr. Johnston describes her work on this project over the last year and a half as a ‘slow motion juggling act’. As a clinician she’s used to dealing with problems in rapid sequence. System change has been a whole new learning curve for her. She says the key to moving forward is finding a balance between encouraging gentle movement forward without being too pushy. She has also learned to temper her expectations and get used to a very different speed of progress than the one she’s used to as a clinician.

Congratulations to Dr. Johnston, Keva Glynn, Gillian Kozinka, Hayley Bos, and collaborators from the Pacific Post Partum Support Society for all their hard work to make this invaluable service available to more Island parents!

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