New parents should address problems as they arise, rather than leave them to fester, as 20% of all parents unnecessarily suffer up to 6 months before seeking help, according to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA).
New parents can feel like the world is watching them. Whether it's their own parents and in-laws, friends, mothers groups, even from sideways glances in the supermarket. We've created a judgmental world where the pressure is always on.
The reality of this is however the majority of it is imagined, with the biggest critic of parents, actually being themselves.
‘Panic attacks, generalised worry, development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours, abrupt mood swings, feeling constantly tired, withdrawing from friends, difficulty focusing, are some signs of depression in new parents.’
One of the main concerns parents have before reaching out for help is a personal belief that there is a stigma attached to the illness. That it makes them a bad parent. One of the key issues at hand is debunking that misconception.
The latest research shows that the overwhelming majority (92%) of people believe that suffering from peri-natal depression does NOT make you a bad parent. Furthermore, 80% do not see peri-natal depression as a sign of weakness.
PANDA CEO, Terri Smith says that new parents do not have to feel ashamed of any Perinatal Mental Health issue, which is usually the main reason they hold off treatment. Adding that statistics prove that the community is more aware of these conditions saying;
"The majority of callers report that they feel shame about their condition. A feeling that is compounded by the idea that they are not meeting their own expectations as a parent."
"... there can be unrealistic expectations of what you will be as a parent, what it will be like and how you should look, think and feel, and this makes it very hard to admit there's something wrong when you are not feeling the way you thought you would or should".
PANDA is calling for all families and friends to help create an environment free from pressure for mothers and fathers. It's not just for first child, but added siblings that come into a family unit. While parents may have felt they met expectations the first time around, there is a danger that they fail to live up to those expectations once there are more children in the mix, and the pressure increases.
There is also an onus for family and friends to look for symptoms to help struggling parents. Alarmingly, despite greater acceptance, more than 60% of people still do not know what signs to look for when dealing with Perinatal Mental Health.
Of parents who have actively sought out help through PANDA. 60% of callers to the help line reported a lowered mood, with symptoms including hopelessness, lacking motivation and loss of joy. PANDA also found that anxiety was just as common as depression, with 65% of callers reporting feeling anxious, panicked, agitated, angry and irritable.
Signs 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.
If you, or anyone you know is suffering from these issues, then PANDA urges you not to wait to seek help. They usually recommend people seeking help once any symptoms have persisted for more than two weeks.