By PANDA CEO Terri Smith
Every new parent has a bad day here and there, but there’s a vast difference between the normal ups and downs of parenting and a debilitating mental illness that can cause huge stress and disruption in families and can even put lives at risk.
Perinatal depression and anxiety is a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Not only does that mean it’s really common, it means there is a role you can play as a partner, family, or friend. You can make a huge difference by supporting your loved ones by knowing the signs and encouraging them to seek help.
Early intervention is the key to better mental health
Last year more than three out of five callers to PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline waited four weeks or more to seek help, when it is recommended that help should be sought if symptoms persist for more than two weeks.
This shows just how far we still have to go to help expecting and new parents to identify what is happening when they develop perinatal depression and anxiety, and reduce the stigma and shame associated with seeking help.
The term “perinatal” includes pregnancy and the 12 months after giving birth. Perinatal depression and anxiety affects both mums and dads and it doesn’t discriminate against race, religion, culture, gender, income or career.
Know the signs and where to seek help
Signs to look for in yourself or your partner, family or friends can include:
- Panic attacks
- Persistent, generalised worry
- Development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly tired
- Withdrawing from friends
- Difficulty focusing
- Feeling constantly sad or crying for no reason and,
- Having thoughts of death or suicide.
There is widespread confusion about perinatal anxiety, with three in five people not aware of it as an illness and almost half not knowing what signs to look for.
During Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week @PANDA encourages all Australian’s to start open and honest conversations about parenthood.
If you know a new parent, take a moment this week to check in with them and ask how they are going. Parenthood can be really tough and parents need to know that it’s ok to reach out for help. PANDA resources can be a great first step.
For support, please call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST or visit www.panda.org.au #bePNDAaware