Many of you know, that Seriously Milestones donates $1 from our best selling Newborn Pack, to PANDA Australia. What you might not know, is who they are and what they do.
I spoke with David Sutherland, Fundraising and Communications Manager, in the lead up to PANDA Awareness week, which runs from 11-17th of November 2018.
Firstly, who are PANDA and what do you do?
PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression, a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Perinatal anxiety and depression is common, has many faces and does not discriminate – it can affect anyone, and have devastating consequences for individuals and families if left untreated. PANDA runs Australia’s only National Helpline that supports new and expecting mums and dads affected by anxiety and depression, and also works to raise awareness in the community, including the signs to look for and where to go to seek support.
So you also work with Men, as well as Women?
Yes, because men can also develop anxiety or depression (or both) in their journey to becoming a parent. Up to one in ten dads will experience anxiety or depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or in the first year after the baby’s birth.
There are a range of factors that can contribute to this, including relationship issues, financial stress, changed circumstances, fear of the future or uncertainty around caring for a baby. The important thing to remember is that any expecting or new dad can develop this illness, regardless of their age, background, financial status or culture. Even men who have previously been confident and sure of themselves can become anxious or depressed in becoming a parent.
As well as speaking to men every day on PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline, PANDA also operates a website specifically for dads howisdadgoing.org.au. Our website for dads has lots of important information and stories to help expecting and new dads who might be struggling with the feelings and emotions to understand what’s happening to them.
If someone is struggling, what is the process for getting in touch?
Any expecting or new parent who is struggling with their emotional or mental health, or anyone who is worried about an expecting or new parent they know, can contact PANDA for support. The number for PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline is 1300 726 306. The Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT.
It is the only national dedicated service for mums and dads experiencing challenges in becoming parents. Callers to PANDA’s Helpline are supported by someone who really understands how they are feeling and knows how to help them take the first step to recovery.
Many of our trained counsellors – a combination of professional staff and volunteers – have a personal experience of postnatal anxiety and depression. In addition, every day they hear about the experiences of families across Australia as they deal with perinatal anxiety and depression. This means they fully understand the complex difficulties callers to the Helpline are going through.
In hindsight, I possibly had PND with my first. What is the difference between ‘adjusting’ to parenting and PND?
Becoming a parent is one of the biggest transitions people go through in life, so it’s absolutely understandable to have some difficulties adjusting to the changes. It’s common for new parents to experience a range of emotions, both positive and negative, in response to these changes. Many people find that pregnancy or having a baby is more challenging than they anticipated – this is a common experience of re-adjustment.
It’s not uncommon for women to experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after birth, however, this is not considered a mental health concern requiring treatment. The baby blues symptoms of teariness, anxiety or irritability usually resolve in a few days with understanding, acknowledgment and support.
For some however, the challenges become overwhelming. General ups and downs can develop into something more serious, including perinatal anxiety or depression, which is a serious mental illness. When this occurs, and symptoms last for two weeks or more, it’s time to get help.
Does PND often go undiagnosed? Why do you think this is?
We know that perinatal anxiety and depression often goes undiagnosed. This illness, despite being common (it affects around 100,000 families across Australia every year) is not always easy to recognise, even by health professionals.
We know many health professionals lack the confidence and skills to address perinatal mental health issues – this is why training health professionals who work with families about the complexities of dealing with perinatal anxiety and depression is an important task for PANDA.
We also know that women and men struggling with their mental health often find it hard to talk about the difficulties they may be facing.
Any advice as to how to approach a friend that I’m worried about?
It can be hard to bring up your concerns with friends and loved ones. But it’s really important for an expecting or new parent to seek support and treatment for how they are feeling as early as possible, to help get better as soon as possible. So, if you can encourage them to talk about their feelings or seek support, it can make a huge difference to their mental health and the health and happiness of their family.
If people resist talking about their feelings or reaching out for help, do your best to remind them that perinatal anxiety and depression is a medical condition. It is also temporary and treatable. Tell them that reaching out to get help can take some courage, but this is the most important thing they can do to support their family.
I’d love to get involved with PANDA as a volunteer or fund raiser, what can I do?
We love our volunteers and fundraisers! They are so important to us. Our volunteers help us raise awareness about perinatal anxiety and depression, either by sharing their stories with the media and through other channels (including training sessions for health professionals) or by helping us distribute resources into communities. And our fundraisers bring in critical funds to help us do our work.
We have three different volunteer roles here at PANDA, but two of these (our Telephone Support Workers and Community Education Volunteers) are based only in Victoria.
The national program people across the country can volunteer for is our Community Champions program – however you need to have experienced perinatal anxiety or depression or postnatal psychosis to be considered for this program.
In terms of fundraising, there are several ways people can support PANDA to help expecting and new parents recover from perinatal mental illness. People can organise fundraising events on our behalf such as:
· Lunches, barbecues, dinners and banquets
· Cinema screenings
· Trivia nights
· Cocktail parties and gala events
· stalls at local markets
· yoga or Pilates classes
· morning teas and picnics.
People can also take part in fun runs or other sporting events.
Or, if someone runs their own businesses they could allocate a proportion of their profits to PANDA (like Seriously Milestones do!).
Fundraisers are incredibly important to us as it is only through their efforts and their kindness that we can deliver services and get vital information, stories and resources into the community.
Did you know that the 11th - 17th of November is PANDA Awareness week?
You can host an event to help raise awareness, and funds, anyway you want.
For some ideas for your event, or to register, head here.
You can also follow PANDA on -
Facebook // Instagram // linkedin // twitter