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Over the past 20 years the prevalence of child and adolescent mental disorders in high-income countries has not changed despite increased investment in mental health services. Insufficient contact with mental health services may be a contributing factor; however, it is not known what proportion of children have sufficient contact with health professionals to allow delivery of treatment meeting minimal clinical practice guidelines, or how long children experience symptoms prior to receiving treatment.
To investigate the level of mental healthcare received by Australian children from age 4 years to 14 years.
Trajectories of mental health symptoms were mapped using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Health professional attendances and psychotropic medications dispensed were identified from linked national Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme records.
Four trajectories of mental health symptoms were identified (low, high-decreasing, moderate-increasing and high-increasing). Most children with mental health symptoms had few MBS mental health attendances, and only a minority received care meeting study criteria for minimally adequate treatment. Children in the high-increasing and moderate-increasing trajectories were more likely to access care, yet there was no evidence of improvement in symptoms.
It is important that children and adolescents with mental health problems receive treatment that meets minimal practice guidelines. Further research is needed to identify the quality of care currently provided to children with mental health difficulties and how clinicians can be best funded and supported to provide care meeting minimal practice guidelines.
What Were We Thinking (WWWT) is a gender-informed, psychoeducational programme to promote respectful relationships and skilled management of unsettled infant behaviours and thereby reduce postpartum common mental disorders. It comprises a highly structured seminar for couples and babies, usual primary care from a WWWT-trained nurse and take-home print materials. The aim was to assess long-term outcomes after a cluster randomised controlled trial of WWWT.
Trial participants who consented completed a computer-assisted telephone interview 18 months postpartum. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and anxiety symptoms with the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7). Impacts of baseline characteristics and trial arm on changes in scores from baseline to follow-up were calculated using Conditional Latent Growth Curve Models adjusting for prognostic indicators and controlling for clustering effects.
Overall, 314/400 (78.5%) women contributed data at baseline (6 weeks postpartum), trial endline (26 weeks postpartum) and follow-up (12 months after trial endline). In intention-to-treat analyses, there was a significantly greater improvement in adjusted GAD-7 scores [regression coefficient (RC) −0.55; 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.94 to −0.17] and non-significant improvement (RC −0.27; 95% CI −0.63 to 0.08) in PHQ-9 scores from baseline to follow-up in the intervention than the control arm. In a per-protocol analysis, the proportion with GAD-7 scores ⩽4 (asymptomatic) improved 24.1% (55.7% baseline to 79.8% follow-up, p = 0.043) among women who received the full WWWT programme, which included the seminar, compared with 2.4% (77.1–79.5%, p = 0.706) among those who received the partial intervention (usual care from WWWT-trained nurse and print materials).
The WWWT programme has a significant sustained beneficial impact on postnatal generalised anxiety among primiparous women compared with usual care. The in-person seminar is the most influential component of the intervention. Psycho-educational programmes integrated into primary care appear promising as a strategy to reduce postpartum common mental disorders.
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