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Low-intensity psychosocial interventions have been effective in targeting perinatal depression, but relevant mechanisms of change remain unknown.
To examine three theoretically informed mediators of the Thinking Healthy Programme Peer-delivered (THPP), an evidence-based psychosocial intervention for perinatal depression, on symptom severity in two parallel, randomised controlled trials in Goa, India and Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Participants included pregnant women aged ≥18 years with moderate to severe depression, as defined by a Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) score ≥10, and were randomised to either THPP or enhanced usual care. We examine whether three prespecified variables (patient activation, social support and mother–child attachment) at 3 months post-childbirth mediated the effects of THPP interventions of perinatal depressive symptom severity (PHQ-9) at the primary end-point of 6 months post-childbirth. We first examined individual mediation within each trial (n = 280 in India and n = 570 in Pakistan), followed by a pooled analysis across both trials (N = 850).
In both site-specific and pooled analyses, patient activation and support at 3 months independently mediated the intervention effects on depressive symptom severity at 6 months, accounting for 23.6 and 18.2% of the total effect of THPP, respectively. The intervention had no effect on mother–child attachment scores, thus there was no evidence that this factor mediated the intervention effect.
The effects of the psychosocial intervention on depression outcomes in mothers were mediated by the same two factors in both contexts, suggesting that such interventions seeking to alleviate perinatal depression should target both social support and patient activation levels.
The current study explored the temporal pathways of change within two treatments, the Healthy Activity Program (HAP) for depression and the Counselling for Alcohol Problems (CAP) Program for harmful drinking.
The study took place in the context of two parallel randomized controlled trials in Goa, India. N = 50 random participants who met a priori criteria were selected from each treatment trial and examined for potential direct and mediational pathways. In HAP, we examined the predictive roles of therapy quality and patient-reported activation, assessing whether activation mediated the effects of therapy quality on depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) outcomes. In CAP, we examined the predictive roles of therapy quality and patient change- and counter-change-talk, assessing whether change- or counter-change-talk mediated the effects of therapy quality on daily alcohol consumption.
In HAP, therapy quality (both general and treatment-specific skills) was associated with patient activation; patient activation but not therapy quality significantly predicted depression outcomes, and patient activation mediated the effects of higher general skills on subsequent clinical outcomes [a × b = −2.555, 95% confidence interval (CI) −5.811 to −0.142]. In CAP, higher treatment-specific skills, but not general skills, were directly associated with drinking outcomes, and reduced levels of counter-change talk both independently predicted, and mediated the effects of higher general skills on, reduced alcohol consumption (a × b = −24.515, 95% CI −41.190 to −11.060). Change talk did not predict alcohol consumption and was not correlated with counter-change talk.
These findings suggest that therapy quality in early sessions operated through increased patient activation and reduced counter-change talk to reduce depression and harmful drinking respectively.
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