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Arabella Gibson of Gidget Foundation Australia on the shortage of perinatal mental health specialists

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The demand for perinatal mental health services in Australia has increased year after year since the pandemic, highlighting the need for the growth of specialists in the field nationally.

Healthcare Channel has reached out to Arabella Gibson, CEO of Gidget Foundation Australia, to talk about the industry-leading Workforce Development Program, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Training and Development Institute. 

Arabella Gibson joined Gidget Foundation Australia in early 2017 after a 20-year career in executive leadership roles in the media and communications industry in both Australia and the UK.   

She also holds a Masters in Communication Management from UTS and is a Non-Executive Director of Future Women, an organisation supporting the advancement of women to connect, learn and lead.  

Arabella has a passion for improving support systems for expectant and new parents by building emotionally resilient families. 

In this interview, Arabella discusses the free program that offers comprehensive training and supervision to clinicians to build a stronger perinatal mental health workforce. 

HCC: The Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Training and Development Institute enlists mental health professionals from a variety of professional backgrounds. What are the incentives they can get out of the program? 

Arabella: The incentives from the Workforce Development program include (but are not limited to): weekly supervision with a Senior Perinatal Psychologist or Senior Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, group supervision focusing on presenting and promoting case discussions, access to monthly professional development in perinatal specific topics presented by experienced perinatal professionals, as well as commencing a caseload of clients which allows Clinicians to directly apply their theoretical knowledge to practical presentations. 

This is a unique offering as it’s a free program that targets experienced mental health professionals, who are dedicated to furthering their knowledge and upskill in perinatal and infant mental health. 

HCC: How do you envision this program to impact the general public’s view on perinatal mental health in Australia? 

Arabella: The Workforce Development Program will highlight GFA’s dedication to providing excellence in perinatal mental health service delivery by ensuring that their workforce continues to receive a high level of professional training and support, to provide targeted assessment and interventions in the perinatal period. 

We hope that the public can identify GFA’s ongoing commitment to reducing the incidence of perinatal mental health conditions by ensuring that their workforce is continually growing and producing perinatal mental health professionals with a high level of training and competence. 

HCC: What are the processes taken to ensure quality perinatal mental health care?

Arabella: The Workforce Development Program Framework builds on Gidget Foundation Australia’s (GFA) existing strengths in providing evidence-based and timely perinatal care, by creating a skilled workforce with a key priority in continuing to provide excellence in perinatal mental health care and workforce skill development. 

The Workforce Development Program focuses on providing quality perinatal and infant mental health care by: 

  • linking clients with perinatal mental health professionals in a timely manner; 
  • improving access to experienced Clinicians who are being provided regular training and weekly supervision in perinatal and infant mental health care; 
  • creating a skilled mental health workforce who can identify risks in the perinatal period through screening for anxiety or depressive disorders; to establish an early intervention and create clear referral and care pathways. 
  • providing culturally responsive and family-centred perinatal mental health care 
  • aiming to improve parents’ experience of pregnancy, parenthood, well-being, and safety outcomes for families; and to reduce adverse health outcomes for infants. 
  • The key priority for the Workforce Development Program is to deliver targeted healthcare outcomes that allow timely access to a skilled perinatal mental health workforce to ensure that clients are receiving excellence in perinatal mental health care. 

The key priority for the Workforce Development Program is to deliver targeted healthcare outcomes that allow timely access to a skilled perinatal mental health workforce to ensure that clients are receiving excellence in perinatal mental health care. The Workforce Development Program is committed to continuous evaluation of the Program to ensure GFA are meeting best practice guidelines with defined outcomes to reduce waitlists and ensure clients can access timely and specialist perinatal mental health support. 

HCC: What are some of the critical considerations you and your team must keep in mind while providing mental health services? 

Arabella: One of the considerations for the Workforce Development Program, is the commitment to continue to monitor our progress against identified strategic outcomes to ensure we are meeting best practice guidelines in perinatal and infant mental health. 

Another critical consideration is the need to continue to access funding to ensure that we can consistently grow our workforce to parallel the current and urgent demand for perinatal services. This will ensure that we are able to continue to identify risks in the perinatal period and act quickly to mitigate any risks to families at this time of their lives. 

HCC: Perinatal depression and anxiety are assumed to affect women during pregnancy. How does Gidget Foundation Australia accommodate men who also undergo the same? 

Arabella: All GFA’s services and clinical programs are also offered to men. GFA provides free individual psychological counselling services delivered face-to-face or via telehealth. Gidget Houses are accessible and provide compassionate holistic care for expectant and new parents and their families. They are a safe haven for parents, where expectant and new parents are respected, and the needs of each unique family are paramount. 

We also run regular Gidget Village group therapy specifically for Dads and we have a dedicated men’s support with our Gidget Virtual Village for Dads. Gidget Virtual Village Dads is a private, moderated peer support group for expectant and new dads (with children up to school age) based in Australia. The Facebook group is coordinated and moderated by GFA and is aimed at creating a safe space connecting expectant and new dads with GFA, and with each other.

Read also: Australia’s sector leader in quality care, Danielle Ballantine of Your Side Australia.

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