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Record numbers of parents calling for help

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Parenting is not an easy job, which is why PANDA is pleased to be receiving more calls than usual.

Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) has witnessed a 51% increase in calls to its national helpline over the past 12 months, and is commending Hunter parents for seeking support and starting an important conversation. 

In particular, PANDA is acknowledging mums reaching out for help, with 92% of calls coming from women.

Whilst many may think the statistics are alarming, PANDA sees the increase in demand as positive progress – it means fewer families in Australia are trying to manage alone.

Of pregnant callers reaching out for help, 75% are pregnant with their second or third child. 

There has also been a significant increase in the number of callers with babies less than one month old – 12% in 2019-20 compared to 26% in 2020-21 – meaning parents are reaching out earlier for support.

As it winds up Perinatal Mental Health Week (7 – 14 November) PANDA is urging families in Australia to be more aware of their own mental health and wellbeing, and that of loved ones, during the perinatal period. 

It also wants to raise awareness of the barriers stopping thousands of Australian families from accessing support services.

PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof said 57% of callers in 2020-21 cited stressful life events as one of the reasons for reaching out for help.

“There is no doubt COVID-19 has contributed to the increase in stress felt by expecting and new parents,” she said.

“We have heard from many mums and dads that having less support available has put pressure on families facing isolation, home schooling and separation from loved ones.

“We have also seen more discussion about mental wellness and looking after yourself which has helped mums and dads recognise they may need help – and that’s a good thing.”

Over the last year, PANDA has had more than 40,000 conversations with parents who reached out for help.

“We are so proud to see more callers to the PANDA Helpline and people reaching out for help earlier. 

“They want to make their parenting experience the best it can be, and be there for their bubs at a time when they’re struggling.”

Sadly, not everyone is able to access help when they need it and PANDA cites five key barriers parents come up against when seeking help – they include language, lack of awareness of perinatal mental health issues, distance from support, a fear of being judged, and access to healthcare professionals.

For this reason, PANDA offers Australia’s only free Perinatal Helpline, community and health professionals Learning Hub and helpful resources translated into 40 languages for families where English is not spoken.

“If people aren’t sure what they are feeling is normal, or if they are seeing signs of mental health distress in loved ones, our website offers 24-hour access to our online mental health checklist,” Ms Borninkhof said.

PANDA recognises having a new baby in your life is not easy, but mums and dads need to know they are not alone. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed at this time.

“We applaud every expecting and new parent who has reached out for support and started an important conversation. 

“Whether they have reached out to their partners, family, GP or PANDA, they have started to break down one of the biggest barriers in seeking help early,” she said.

Anyone having trouble coping with pregnancy or post childbirth can visit panda.org.au or call the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 Monday to Friday, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT.

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