It is seemingly apt that perinatal and infant mental health has been in the news recently. November 15 – 21 was Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week panda.org.au/panda-events appropriately renamed and rebranded by PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia to bring attention to the fact that: anxiety in the perinatal period is as if not more common than depression, depression and anxiety occur during pregnancy and not just after birth and that fathers also suffer during this period.
On November 21 Age Journalist Mikki Perkins wrote a poignant story outlining her experience of postnatal depression with her first child and how awareness and specialist care enabled her to avoid the illness with her second. theage.com.au/national/perinatal-depression Mikki’s story highlights the need for greater public awareness, reduced stigma and improved access to timely specialist support and advice.
On November 25 again in The Age, Liam Mannix reported on the tragic death of baby Summer Jamesk and questioned whether the antidepressants Summer’s mother was on during her pregnancy may have been the cause. theage.com.au/victoria/claims Whilst Mannix provided balance in the piece, the front page headline “Claims a common antidepressant killed baby Summer” and the citing of a single statistic is likely to alarm other pregnant women on antidepressants and their treating GPs. Mannix’s story also points to the need for pregnant mothers, fathers and their treating doctors to have access to specialist perinatal mental health care, in this case a perinatal psychiatrist with expertise in the the use of psychotropic medication during the perinatal period.
Australia has a long tradition in the field of perinatal and infant mental health and to some extend has been a world leader. We have been at the forefront of the development of Mother-Baby Units where mothers with perinatal mental illness can be admitted with their infant to reduce the impact of separation on the infant and the parent-infant relationship. There are also a range of public and private services that provide overnight care for families struggling with significant infant sleep and settling difficulties. Additionally, there are dedicated and effective infant mental health practitioners and services that ensure that the infant is kept in mind both on an individual and political level. A number of prominent and lesser known Australian clinicians and researchers have contributed to the literature in the field and have been active in peak international bodies. On a population health level there are effective government and non-government public health initiatives for example beyondblue beyondblue.org.au and COPE cope.org.au that have reduced stigma, increased public awareness and literacy and secured funding for key services. Finally, at the coal-face are countless clinician, allied health and wellness practitioners that support and assist mothers, fathers and their infants on a day-to-day basis and represent the foundation of perinatal and infant mental health care in Australia.
Reflecting on the recent news and the rich history of perinatal and infant mental health care in Australia, it is our aim that GLOW’s contribution is a worthy one.
#mindbodyandglow #perinatalemotionalhealth #panda #beyondblue #COPEorg