Dealing with stigma and mental health

Rome, Italy - June 20, 2012: A tattooed father holding onto his baby daughter at an outdoor cafe in the  Trastevere neighborhood.

Given you have come to the ‘How is Dad Going?’ website it seems you might have questions and concerns about yourself or your partner.
If you are concerned about your partner you can play a really important role in being an advocate for her, helping her to access help, supporting her to talk about her concerns and keeping any unhelpful family and community views at a distance.
It can be incredibly difficult in many cultures and communities to talk about mental health issues like anxiety and depression because of the shame that often comes with the territory.  When anxiety and depression hit during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby the shame and stigma can be even greater.
Many mums and dads will feel the added guilt of not enjoying being a new parent and even fear that they will be judged to be a bad parent and lose their baby.  It is often this shame, stigma and fear that stops new parents seeking or accepting help.
Understanding that perinatal anxiety and depression is very common and treatment is available is a powerful step.

It’s important to know that up to I in 10 women and 1 in 20 men struggle with antenatal depression and more than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia. Anxiety is thought to be as common and many parents experience anxiety and depression at the same time. Caring for someone with perinatal *during pregnancy or after birth) anxiety or depression can be confusing, stressful and demanding. We know that perinatal anxiety and depression doesn’t discriminate – it affects new mums and new dads across the socio-economic spectrum. Many new mums and dads are reluctant to seek help or simply don’t understand what is happening to them. 65% of callers to the PANDA National Helpline report having symptoms for more than 4 weeks before calling, including 15% who have had symptoms for more than a year.

Callers to the PANDA National Helpline often report feeling a deep sense of shame or judgment – this is commonly coupled with a view that they don’t deserve to be a parent / are a bad parent. For some this leads to thoughts that someone will take their baby away if they talk about how they are feeling, and sometimes they believe the family is better off without them.

Understanding that perinatal anxiety and depression is very common and treatment is available is a powerful step.