Dads get $26m pregnancy blues boost
FOR the first time, new and expecting dads will have their mental health supported through new parenthood as much as mums.
Health Minister Greg Hunt will today announce $26 million to better protect the mental health of expecting and new parents as he hosts a national roundtable on stillbirth prevention in Canberra.
The $26 million for peri-natal depression will be available as grants to mental health and parent support organisations such as SANDS, PANDA and BeyondBlue to develop and deliver innovative programs to bolster the mental health of parents.
Dedicated grants rounds will be available for peri-natal mental health support, peri-natal loss and bereavement peer support and peri-natal mental health promotion and training.
There will be a particular focus on programs that support both fathers and mothers, with the applications for the grants to open in the second half of this year and administered by the Department of Health.
Each year, an estimated 100,000 people are affected by peri-natal depression and anxiety which occurs during pregnancy and after birth.
One in 10 expectant and new fathers experience depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress in the peri-natal period.
One in 10 women experience depression while pregnant, and one in seven women in the year following birth.
Ahead of the national roundtable on stillbirth in Canberra today, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the funding would be of particular importance to those parents who experienced a stillbirth.
"Early parenthood and the impending birth of a child can be both joyous and a difficult time for both men and women. Sadly, stillbirth is one of the greatest tragedies that can happen to any family," Mr Hunt told News Corp.
"Therefore it's important that appropriate mental health support is available for people who need help in coping with this huge change in their lives."
Former Australian of The Year and mental health expert Patrick McGorry said it was heartening to also see a focus on dads.
"To include fathers is such positive thing but we've got to make sure this money is rolled out correctly," Professor McGorry said.
"This will have not just an impact on the parents but also the baby too."
Chief executive of PANDA - Peri-natal Anxiety & Depression Australia - Terri Smith said the funding would go a long way to breaking down the stigma around peri-natal depression.
"We know from PANDA's helpline that it's actually really tough for dads too," Ms Smith said.
"They want to be the rock for their family and it's really hard for them to say poor me. But it's 2019 - it is time we address this issue for mums and dads."
In December the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education finalised a report into stillbirth in Australia and highlighted the shocking statistic of six babies a day who are stillborn in Australia.
That's more than double the three deaths a day on our roads and significantly higher than the one woman who dies in Australia due to domestic violence every week.
Today experts including the Australian College of Midwives, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia among others will meet to discuss how to reduce the high rate of stillbirth and make things easier for those families who experience it.
Senator and former NSW premier Kristina Keneally - whose daughter Caroline was stillborn in 1998 - and was instrumental in calling for the stillbirth inquiry said today's roundtable was a first step in the right direction.
"(But) we need the government to commit to a national stillbirth action plan that reverses the long-term trend in Australia of six stillborn babies every day," Senator Keneally said.
"We cannot lose sight of the longer term."
Jackie Mead chief executive of SANDS Australia, who support Australians through stillbirth, miscarriage and infant death, said the $26 million announcement was truly welcomed.
"Expanded peri-natal mental health services are needed and for bereaved parents even more so," Ms Mead said.
"In particular, the broad focus on parents will allow us to expand services to better support dads ... so often men work really hard to support their partner that they don't pay attention to their own needs".