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PANDA data shows more new parents lack support than before COVID

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Lack of support for the psychological and physical challenges of caring for a new baby is getting worse for mums and dads in Australia, according to new research.

New data released by leading national mental health organisation, Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) has surprised many perinatal mental health advocates by showing a 0.3% increase in demand for support after restrictions were eased. COVID restrictions. And that’s on top of a 45% increase in demand during the pandemic.

Providing Australia’s only national toll-free helpline, PANDA saw a 23% increase in calls seeking help.

“PANDA did not see the expected reduction in demand for its services when COVID restrictions began to ease,” says Julie Borninkhof, CEO of PANDA.

PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof

One in five new mums and one in ten new dads are affected by perinatal depression and anxiety, affecting around 100,000 families in Australia each year.

The importance of this compared to pre-COVID? “Parents face a range of challenges related to cost of living, economic factors and events at a time when they are vulnerable and often quietly trying to manage anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. perinatal,” says Borninkhof.

“Of the callers to the PANDA helpline, 63% had not spoken to their partner about how they were feeling, while 83% had not consulted a doctor or healthcare professional.”

Lauren Fisher, from South Brisbane, is one such mum who has faced the challenges of pregnancy anxiety and postnatal depression. Lauren and his wife, Alex, now have two beautiful IVF-conceived daughters and a much-loved bulldog and rescue cat, but their romance hasn’t quite been smooth sailing.

Lauren gave birth to her two children and struggled with her mental health during each of the pregnancies.

“I carried tremendous guilt for this as we had desperately wanted these babies and spent the equivalent of a house deposit on IVF to make them! It was very difficult to share how I felt because I had so ashamed of not ‘loving every minute,'” Lauren says.

“My partner really struggled to support me during this time. She had taken 6 weeks off when each baby was born, but when she returned to a demanding full-time job, she really struggled to perform at work and to support me as I needed. My anxiety often expresses itself in the form of anger which it mostly paid the price for.

Eventually, however, Lauren was able to find the support she needed through resources such as the PANDA helpline, counseling, and prescribed medication.

“I called the PANDA Helpline with my first baby when she was 6 months old. Having someone who listens, validates and normalizes my experience has been so cathartic. Also exploring my traumatic birth and understanding the impact that she had on my early parenting journey was very enlightening. I hadn’t connected the two before,” she says.

“My partner now has a much better understanding of my mental health and can relate my moods and behaviors to my illness, rather than personalizing it.”

“It took me a year of daily medication and regular therapy to get to a point where I feel real joy again during my parenting times. I still find some days very difficult, but I know it It’s completely normal for parents of young children.

To all the other new parents in a similar boat, Lauren says, “It’s not your fault. You’re not alone. You are not broken. Our society is not supporting you as it should during this time of transformation.

It’s having a community of care that has helped Lauren and Alex as new moms, and Borninkhof says one of the most effective things for expectant parents is to start building a safety net before the birth of the baby.

“This community of care can include relationships with healthcare providers, trusted friends, other parents through playgroups and new parent groups, online parent support groups and healthcare and mental health providers,” says Borninkhof.

“Mothers tell us they felt like they had to do everything on their own and letting people help them meant they were failing as a mother. This often leads to burnout and not being able to be as present as they want for their children.

This week, PANDA’s perinatal mental health campaign aims to encourage new parents to ask themselves “who can help me?” and then tap into their communities of care.

Borninkhof adds that even if someone isn’t sure if what they’re feeling is normal or just needs reassurance, they should reach out to organizations like PANDA who are there to support them.

If you or someone you love needs help:

– PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday) or panda.org.au

– Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7) or lifeline.org.au