Record numbers of new parents seeking psychological support

Posted on 18 Jun 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Director Australia

Postnatal depression anxiety

Demand for help from parents suffering perinatal depression and anxiety has surged more than 132% over the past four years, according to new statistics.

The data was released by Gidget Foundation Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in supporting the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents.

The Foundation is named after a young mother who suffered postnatal depression and kept the diagnosis to herself before tragically taking her own life.

Demand for the Foundation's free psychological counselling services increased by 30% in 2022–23 and has continued to grow this year, with more than 2,000 parents seeking help.

“We’ve seen a surge in new families seeking mental health support."
Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson.

Lisa Carrick knows first-hand the positive impact that the Foundation’s services have on the community.

The mother of three received a referral to her local Gidget House after confiding in her GP that she was experiencing panic attacks and thoughts of self-harm during her most recent pregnancy.

“I was convinced my family would have been better off without me. After that I saw my GP and I let everything out,” she said.

“The tears would not stop, as hard as I tried. She was very concerned and referred me to Gidget House in Shellharbour [NSW].”

Lisa said she will be forever grateful for what she described as an amazing circle of support.

“I know others aren’t so lucky. After opening up to those around me, I was blown away by the number of those who also said they struggled with their mental health after giving birth.”

Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson said despite more than half of expectant and new parents having experienced perinatal mental health symptoms, only two in five sought professional help.

Barriers to seeking out mental health support services include stigma, living in regional or rural areas and cultural expectations.

Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson.

“We’ve seen a surge in new families seeking mental health support. Already, 2,168 clients have booked appointments for 2024, and the demand shows no signs of slowing down,” said Ms Gibson.

Perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) impacts more than 100,000 parents across the country and is responsible each year for $227 million in health-related costs, $7 million in wellbeing costs and $643 million in costs to the national economy.

Over the past four years, the number of parents who have sought help from GFA each year has almost tripled, climbing from 1,309 to 3,037.

The number of face-to-face locations (Gidget Houses) across the country has more than doubled to 32, and that number is expected to reach 40 by 2027.

“With one in five mothers and one in ten fathers experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA), as well as maternal suicide being a leading cause of death among expectant and new mothers, it’s vital that parents have access to specialist, appropriate care,” said Ms Gibson.

Like all support, that help comes with a cost – up to $3,000 for a family’s complete care over 12 months, which includes up to 10 individual counselling sessions with a specialist perinatal clinician.

To help meet increasing demand for its free lifesaving mental health support services, the Foundation hopes Australians will reach into their pockets and donate generously on June 19, Gidget Giving Day – when all donations will be doubled courtesy of matched giving.

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