Songs from Home

Addressing postnatal depression and loneliness through online songwriting

Songs from Home brings the benefits of group music making online to address loneliness, social isolation, and postnatal depression in new mothers.

Poor social connections, including loneliness, are a risk factor for maternal mental illness. This is important as suicide is the leading cause of mortality in the first year after women give birth. Indeed, in the UK up to one in eight women will experience postnatal depression (PND), a debilitating illness for mothers with repercussions for fathers, mother-baby bond, and infants’ social-emotional development. Low or lacking social support is a risk factor for PND, and women with PND often describe feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

While there are treatments available for PND, there is low adherence to antidepressant medication and unacceptably long waiting lists for psychological therapies. Moreover, there are few treatments aimed at preventing or reducing loneliness specifically among this group, particularly for women that – for financial, social, practical, or health barriers including COVID-19 – are unable to attend in-person treatments. Nonetheless, previous research conducted in the CPS (read about the Music and Motherhood study) has shown that music interventions can support social connections and mother-baby bond as well as reducing symptoms of PND. Building on this, Songs from Home will develop and test an online music intervention based on songwriting, with the aim of reducing loneliness and enhancing social connections through musical interactions in order to reduce symptoms of PND. Songwriting has been used in a variety of clinical and online settings, and is particularly appropriate in this context because it allows people to participate in a variety of musical, creative, and social ways.

The project will be built upon a methodology of co-creation, encompassing four overlapping components all of which have lived experience at the core: DISCOVERY, with women, of their needs and challenges; DEFINITION of a specific approach to the online songwriting intervention that meets those needs; DEVELOPMENT of that intervention; and DELIVERY of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that evaluates its efficacy. Songs from Home will incorporate these components over three phases informed by lived experience perspectives, culminating in a two-armed RCT with a non-intervention wait-list control group. The RCT will test the impact of the newly developed intervention on a primary outcome measure of loneliness  and secondary outcome measures of social connectedness and PND, with embedded qualitative descriptions of mothers’ experiences. Songs from Home will result in a tested intervention with the potential for further refinement and wide-scale adoption.

The project team comprises researchers from the CPS, including Rosie Perkins who led the Music and Motherhood study, as well as Sunita Sharma, an NHS Consultant who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology and will provide crucial guidance and mental health support to the project. The project is also a collaboration with Happity, the UK’s biggest platform dedicated exclusively to baby and toddler groups and classes. It helps soon-to-be, new, and seasoned parents access thousands of online and in-person classes across the country, allowing them to gain knowledge and join and build communities to support their mental wellbeing. Happity Co-founder Emily Tredget will provide a direct link between the researchers and new mothers experiencing these mental health struggles from across the country, as well as bring Happity’s extensive experience in fostering online classes and communities to developing a music-based approach that is as effective and inclusive as possible.

Project team

George Waddell, RCM (PI)
Rosie Perkins, RCM
Sunita Sharma, NHS
Neta Spiro, RCM
Emily Tredget, Happity

Supported by

UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Research Network
(2021-22)

Learn more

Read more about the Music and Motherhood project that led to this work.

Publications will be posted here in due course.

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