Perinatal Mental Health Week – New data on the mental health of expectant and new parents highlights troubling lack of support

Over 125 expectant and new parents, alongside leading perinatal specialists have united to identify key issues faced by the community to support Australians throughout their early parenting journey. The key challenges highlighted have informed the theme for this year’s national Perinatal Mental Health Week to increase awareness and help parents and carers find the right support.

The week of collaboration aims to ensure parents know that they are not alone in their journey, and that support is available to them at all stages. This year’s overarching theme is ‘We’re here, uncover your village’, to recognise that support may look different for everyone, but that there are options for all parents.

Dr Erin Seeto, Clinical Team Leader and Clinical Psychologist at Gidget Foundation Australia says the daily themes have been developed from the insights of focus groups and surveys of Australian parents, carers and professionals within the perinatal space to ensure that the industry is tackling issues that matter the most to expectant and new parents across the country.

“This year’s Perinatal Mental Health Week themes, are the issues that parents and carers have told us they need more support and education around. This includes themes such as how to access and find your village, barriers to reaching out for help, the transition into parenthood, finding the right care for you, taking care of our carers and helping someone you love,” Dr Seeto explains.

Peer support has been shown to help reduce perinatal mental health difficulties and feelings of isolation in new mothers1. However, new data released today reveals that over two thirds (70 per cent) of expectant and new Australian parents do not have a support network of other parents.

Additionally, two in five (18 per cent) say they rely on other parents for support, yet one in three (30 per cent) struggle to connect with other parents – further emphasising the importance of uncovering their village.

It’s estimated that two in five (43 per cent) Australians aged 16–85 years have experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life2 with expectant and new parents facing additional challenges that may contribute to this risk. With the perinatal phase a major life adjustment and crucial time for overall wellbeing, it’s important that all parents as well as their loved ones have options of where to turn to in times of need.

The new data also reveals two thirds (64 per cent) of Australian parents report not feeling adequately supported by all of their healthcare providers in their early parenting journey, illustrating the need for increased training and education for health professionals and accessing specialist perinatal support from community organisations.

Dr Erin Seeto continues, Gidget Foundation Australia“New parents may experience an adjustment disorder and additionally one in five Australian mothers and one in ten Australian fathers experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety. There are a multitude of factors that play a role in perinatal mental health difficulties and everyone’s parenting journey is unique. Therefore, uncovering your own individual village is crucial to supporting your mental health.”

This Perinatal Mental Health Week 2023 (12-18 November), 56 perinatal, parenting and mental health organisations are combining forces to equip parents with the power to find their village – in the variety of ways this may look for different families.

As part of the government-backed national campaign, all partner organisations are featured in the Perinatal Mental Health Support Finder, an online tool that maps out the sector to help those experiencing perinatal mental health issues or their carers, to find the right support services for their specific needs.

Viv Kissane, CEO and Founder of Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness says, “Each expectant and new parent’s lived experience is unique. As a sector, we need to provide pathways for parents to access diverse support systems that resonate with individual needs. The Perinatal Mental Health Support Finder will help parents explore options that align with their specific experiences and family circumstance.”

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