$13m funding boost as COVID takes toll on new parents
Exclusive: The number of new parents suffering anxiety and depression has doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting a major new funding injection.
The federal government will provide $13.6 million for extra services to support providers, including the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline which has seen a doubling in calls to its hotline since March.
PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof said parents were depressed and wondering what sort of world they were bringing their child into.
Financial pressures, housing stress, unemployment and home schooling were all adding to the pressure on new parents, she said.
Pregnant women feared the virus might affect their unborn child, as the zika virus did, and they are worried their newborns may be at risk of a rare inflammatory syndrome associated with the virus.
Callers to the PANDA helpline have been presenting with more intense mental problems with call times rising from 15 to 30 minutes before to COVID-19 to 30 to 45 minutes now.
The service hopes the extra funding will allow it to extend its services to cover nights, weekends and public holiday periods.
Nearly 100,000 expectant and new parents a year suffer depression or anxiety and stand to benefit form the extra services.
One in 10 women experience mental distress while pregnant and one in seven in the year after birth.
Men can also experience perinatal mental illness, with about one in 10 expectant and new fathers experiencing depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress.
In May the federal government provided $320,000 in additional funding for PANDA and a further $350,000 in September to meet the increased demand from parents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Victoria.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said $13.6 million funding will be provided to a range of parental help services through the Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program.
"The $13.6 million in additional funding will ensure that PANDA and other key national programs will continue to support women and their families affected by perinatal mental illness, or experiencing grief after the death of a child during this challenging period," Mr Hunt said.
The new program will extend funding for existing national perinatal mental health and wellbeing services including:
• PANDA's National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression helpline
• Red Nose's helpline and peer support
• Sand's helpline and peer support which aids families affected by stillbirth
• the MumSpace website which hosts the MumMoodBooster treatment program and the MindMum smartphone app
This funding builds on the $1.3 million delivered to Sands Australia for an intensive support service to families affected by stillbirth, as well as $3 million for a national awareness campaign to demystify stillbirth and reduce its incidence announced last year.
Originally published as $13m funding boost as COVID takes toll on new parents