PIRI’s Current Research

Rapid Applied Research Translation (RART 2.2) Program

Rapid Applied Research Translation (RART 2.2) Program

One in seven women experience postnatal depression, yet only 10 percent receive adequate treatment. Postnatal depression screening is a first step, currently conducted by time-poor Maternal Child Health Nurses (MCHNs). This study is using a Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS), designed by PIRI, to help nurses make the next steps following screening, and connect women with the appropriate support.

In this cluster randomised controlled trial, half of the women will be cared for by MCHNs using the electronic platform, and half following current perinatal mental health care practices using paper-and-pencil procedures. This is the first trial using this system, and will help identify key barriers and facilitators to implementing a new system such as this, as well as optimise the system based on user feedback to allow more wide-scale implementation. All the women in the study will answer some questions with their MCHN at the 4-week postnatal visit, and then be followed up with a PIRI psychologist when their baby is 3 months old to answer some questions over the phone, and fill in a questionnaire.

The study will look at outcomes for women and help shape the electronic platform to assist referrals to services when required. This e-platform has the capacity to deliver real, cost-effective, sustainable improvements to the healthcare system and integrate into appropriate services and supports.

This project was supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) as part of the Rapid Applied Research Translation program. www.machaustralia.org



Begun in 2020, the PIRIMID Trial is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) partnership project funding in 2019. PIRI is proud to be partnering with University of Melbourne, Beyond Blue, PANDA, City of Whittlesea and Banyule City Council to undertake this large cluster randomised controlled (c-RCT) trial.

The aims of this trial is to evaluate the impact of an integrated electronic screening and clinical decision support system (CDSS) designed to aid clinicians in best practice management following screening of women for perinatal depression.

An assessment of emotional wellbeing including screening for perinatal depression occurs routinely during Maternal and Child Health postnatal visits. In this study Maternal and Child Health Nurses will conduct screening using an electronic device. We will compare two alternate methods for nurses to use to manage this routine assessment at the 8-weeks postnatal visit.

Women in the study will complete online questionnaires following their 8-week postnatal appointment, when their baby is 4 and 6 months old.

For more information about this study, please contact piri@austin.org.au

Man vs Mood

Development, Consumer Testing and a Randomised Controlled Trial of an Online Depression Treatment for New Fathers

1 in 10 new or expectant dads experience perinatal anxiety or depression in Australia. Over 40% of first-time dads believe postnatal depression and anxiety is a sign of weakness. To add to our existing range of evidence-based mental health support programs for new and expectant parents, the team at PIRI are currently working on a specialised Web-based treatment for depressed or anxious new fathers, Man vs. Mood.

Depressed new fathers rarely access traditional support services, and their symptoms go largely unacknowledged and untreated.

We are developing a new program which will be specifically designed for men and based upon the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach of our successful MumMoodBooster treatment program for new mums.

The new prototype program will be designed to better engage men and recognise that men exhibit and experience emotional distress in male-specific ways. We are currently recruiting (n = 10) fathers of new babies to participate in focus groups with the prototype version for usability testing, to help us identify any necessary technical changes or improvements. We are also in the process of recruiting (n = 50) clinically depressed fathers of new babies to help us evaluate adherence, acceptability, and efficacy of the newly developed treatment program.

We aim to see at least a 50% reduction in severity of symptoms for those who complete the newly developed program, ultimately leading to the first validated online e-treatment for men’s perinatal depression being made available to depressed fathers of new babies.

Man vs. Mood is funded by The Ian Potter Foundation, The Baker Foundation, Perpetual IMPACT Philanthropy and Men of Malvern. To find out more, please contact us via piri@austin.org.au


In 2016, PIRI was awarded funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health for the delivery of a targeted, evidence-based online support tool and smartphone application for women suffering from or at risk of perinatal depression.

Since 2017, the MumSpace initiative has delivered and implemented a digital stepped-care approach aimed at prevention and early, self-help intervention to reduce and ameliorate the impact of perinatal depression and reduce the burden on more traditional acute downstream services.

This national translational initiative continues to attract increasing numbers to its stepped care resources. The central website, MumSpace, houses our highly effective evidence-based online depression treatments (MumMoodBooster and Mum2BMoodBooster) as well as a preventive smartphone app for perinatal women at risk of, or experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety (MindMum), along with universal online support for new parents (BabySteps and What Were We Thinking!). These resources have been nationally available since the public launch of MumSpace, providing unprecedented access to free, effective support. An estimated 20% of perinatal women experience depression each year (60,000 annually).

The MumSpace initiative is led by the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) in partnership with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), Monash University, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and Queensland University of Technology ( brought together as the Perinatal Depression e-Consortium (PDeC)).

MumSpace is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Visit www.mumspace.com.au

The e-HUGS Project

Strengthening the foundations of child development through enhancing the earliest relationships

The ability to communicate and develop critical cognitive and language skills is shaped during the earliest interactions between a mother and her baby. Depression interferes with these early interactions

The most important elements of what constitutes a “good enough” mother-infant relationship have been identified through many years of research. The Parent-Infant Research Institute’s established HUGS programs (Happiness, Understanding, Giving & Sharing) are designed to implement this knowledge to promote wellness, nurture mother-infant relationships and support infant development. The existing HUGS programs are brief, in-person, facilitated interventions that have been successfully evaluated in randomised controlled trials in Australia (Ericksen et al., 2018; Holt et al., 2021).

The new e-HUGS program will aim to translate this research knowledge into a readily accessible digital format for use on smartphones, iPads and PCs

To do this, the core therapeutic elements of our successful HUGS programs will be translated to an e-format using play exercises and information for mothers to use themselves . This will deliver a new digital resource for mothers that provides easily accessible information about the importance of their mother-baby interaction for future child development

The end product will be an e-HUGS resource that uses an interactive approach with online video, podcasts and learning activities accessible to parents for use every day to promote optimal mother-infant interactions.

The e-HUGS Project is being supported by a generous philanthropic bequest administered by Equity Trustees

Ericksen J, Loughlin E, Holt C, et al. (2018) A Therapeutic Playgroup for Depressed Mothers and Their Infants: Feasibility Study and Pilot Randomized Trial of Community Hugs. Infant Ment Health J 39: 396-409.

Holt C, Gentilleau C, Gemmill AW, et al. (2021) Improving the mother-infant relationship following postnatal depression: a randomised controlled trial of a brief intervention (HUGS). Arch Womens Ment Health 19: 021-01116.

Beating the Blues before Birth trial (NHMRC 2018-2023)

There is substantial evidence that maternal depression during pregnancy can affect fetal and child neurodevelopment. Children of women depressed in pregnancy are likely to have an increased risk of behavioural problems such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity, with effects on mental health lasting at least to adolescence. Recently, we became the first researchers to publish encouraging pilot results on infant outcomes to 9 months of age following treatment of depression during pregnancy.

The current fully powered randomised controlled trial (n=230 women and their infants) aims to assess whether we can prevent or ameliorate adverse child developmental outcomes at 2 years of age through cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) of depression in pregnancy. This sample size will allow us to evaluate medium-term change in child outcomes, specifically child internalising problems at 24 months.

Women 18 years and older, ≤ 30 weeks pregnant and with a clinical diagnosis of depressive disorder will be recruited to the study through self-referral (see registration form here) or via the Royal Women’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital for Women. All women joining the study will receive a clinical assessment with a psychologist. Half of the women will receive CBT and half will receive standard care most likely through their GP. Women enrolled in the study will be asked to complete questionnaires and undertake telephone assessments at 4 timepoints until their child reaches 2 years of age.

Please click here if you would like to register for the study.