Perinatal depression misunderstood in Australia

Peter Terlato 14 November 2016

perinatal depression

Preventing new parents from seeking assistance.

New research has found the average Australian is unaware of the stigma attached to perinatal depression and anxiety, with sufferers feeling ashamed by their condition and concerned they aren't meeting their own expectations as parent.

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) released figures ahead of this week's PANDA Awareness Week (13-19 November), suggesting the public perception of perinatal depression is not reflected in the feelings of the majority of callers to PANDA's national helpline.

This lack of understanding is preventing new mums and dads from seeking appropriate assistance.

Data from PANDA's national helpline reveals almost 60% of callers are affected by the feeling of not meeting their own expectations as a parent.

PANDA CEO Terri Smith says from conception and pregnancy, to the birthing experience and newborn phase, parents can develop unrealistic expectations.

“It can prevent people from seeking help early, meaning more parents are suffering in silence for longer, reducing their enjoyment of what could be a very special time, even putting their lives at risk,” she said.

The most common perinatal mental health issue is postnatal depression. Perinatal depression can extend from when pregnancy begins to the first year after the baby is born.

Three in five people aren't aware this form of depression is an illness and almost half of all Australians don't know how to spot the signs.

PANDA's research also shows a lack of awareness concerning antenatal depression (during pregnancy). Just 5% of Australians identified this as a major health problem for women.

Around 10% of expectant mothers experience antenatal depression and anxiety.

"As a community, we need to know the signs and symptoms so people can recognise when someone is unwell and can seek help early," she said. "You can’t get help if you don’t know something’s wrong."

Mental health problems are not only limited to expecting parents, they also plague Australia’s entertainment industry. Improved "psychological first aid" is necessary to identify and assist sufferers.

If you or someone you know is suffering from perinatal depression, call 1300 726 306 or visit PANDA.

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