The tragic court case focusing on the Dickason family has thrown the spotlight on perinatal mental distress – particularly postnatal depression (PND). At Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa (PADA) we know that the publicity has been distressing for some whānau who have found the news triggering, and that other parents have been anxious that their own struggles with mental health will be unkindly judged. This may make them less likely to speak out or seek help, which is concerning.
It is important to note that PND can range from mild to severe. At its most mild, which is relatively common, it is not dangerous and generally gets better with good emotional and practical support, sleep and time. But, at its most serious – which is much less common – it can be life threatening and can pose a risk to the parent, their baby and their whānau. Unfortunately, many people with PND do experience thoughts or images about hurting themselves or their children, but typically these are very distressing to them, and only a very small percentage will act on them in any way. At this level specialist PND treatment is indicated. Varied support and treatment options are available, depending on where people are located and what they need.
Treatments and support are usually very effective when provided in a timely manner, working with the parent and whānau to develop a plan with consideration of their unique needs and resources, including the baby.
Pregnancy and childbirth can be a wonderful experience, but it also brings many changes and challenges. If you are reading this and you feel scared or overwhelmed after your baby’s birth, it is important to know that help is available – many other parents struggle with anxiety and depression when a new baby arrives. You are not the only one that feels this way – and there is absolutely no need to suffer alone, so talk to your midwife, doctor, other health carer or trusted friend. No one expects perfection, so please reach out for support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are taking important steps to keep yourself, your baby and your whānau safe and healthy.
If you are feeling anxious and depressed:
Talk about it
It is important to seek support and treatment for how you have been feeling as soon as possible. Talk with someone you trust to be supportive. Support is crucial, especially from people who are able to sit, listen, and make no judgments.
Take it easy
Taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of your baby. Consider therapy or counselling. If support from friends and whānau isn’t helping, seeing a therapist or a counsellor may help. You may need medication – there are safe options for pregnant and breastfeeding parents. Accept offers of help from family/ whānau or friends – accepting help is a sign of strength not weakness.
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please do seek help. This doesn’t mean you will do act on these thoughts, or that your baby should or will be taken away. These thoughts are very common and are signs that you are stressed and need support. If you feel this way, or if you are feeling disoriented and unable to handle daily life, tell someone – your midwife, doctor, or another person you trust, as soon as possible. This is important to help you feel safe and get better.
If you are worried about your partner, family/ whānau member or friend, encourage them to talk with their midwife, doctor, health care professional or any other person they trust. If you are worried about their safety, please do not leave them alone – stay with them and seek medical help from your midwife, doctor, or mental health team.
Call 111 if you are concerned about their immediate safety.
Find out more:
Locate a local support group
Mental Health Foundation offers four core helplines, all of which are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week:
Need to talk? – free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or text 4357
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
E tūtaki ana ngā kapua o te rangi, kei runga, kei runga te Mangoroa e kōpae pū ana. The clouds in the sky close over, but above them spreads the milky way.
Released by the PADA team