Arabella Gibson, CEO of Gidget Foundation Australia, writes about how you can support parents in the pandemic.
Pregnancy and childbirth bring so much joy but also many challenges for new parents, and this year has seen no shortage of challenges for expectant and new mums and dads. Being pregnant and bringing home a new baby can be overwhelming in itself, without dealing with a global pandemic, changes to appointments and the loss of in-person support groups.
This sudden isolation and loss of facetime with professionals we rely on to reassure us that ‘we’re doing a good job’ has seen many Aussie mums and dads experience increased anxiety and sometimes when these feelings creep in, a chat with the local GP just isn’t enough. It’s critical that when parents are in this vulnerable state, they’re getting support from professionals who specialise in perinatal counselling.
With one in five (20%) mothers and one in ten (10%) fathers experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety, at Gidget Foundation Australia we believe that specialist perinatal counselling is a key step on the road to recovery.
During the pandemic, there has been a huge shift in the way our health system operates, and like many, Gidget Foundation Australia adapted quickly to move all face-to-face counselling and support services to telehealth to ensure expectant and new parents could still access vital services.
While we’re still actively advocating to have telehealth services remain a permanently funded item on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, we’re pleased to see that the government has extended the rebate until March 2021.
A recent evaluation of our Start Talking telehealth program revealed that our telehealth counselling services delivered equal to, if not improved clinical results compared to our face-to-face sessions. We’re pleased to see the many ways our telehealth program has really held its own during the evaluation. There was an increase of 15% in postpartum parents using the service which really highlights the convenience of the telehealth option for new parents with newborns, especially for mums who may have experienced birth trauma or had surgery.
Our Start Talking program has been available since 2018, so fortunately we were well established and placed to deliver telehealth services across our organisation when things escalated with COVID-19. To provide further support to expectant and new parents, this year we also launched our Gidget Virtual Village – a private, moderated peer support group for expectant and new parents. The group is aimed at creating a safe space, connecting expectant and new parents with perinatal specialists at Gidget but also with each other.
It’s initiatives like our telehealth program and the virtual village that we know are are helping expectant and new parents get through this uncertain time. It has never been more important for mums and dads to practise self-care and set aside time for themselves. Looking after your emotional wellbeing ensures you can manage the pressures, both emotional and physical, of pregnancy, childbirth and those hazy newborn days.
I encourage any expectant or new parents struggling with increased anxiety or depression to reach out and seek support. It might seem scary at first, but I promise it’s the first step on your road to recovery.
To access Gidget Foundation Australia’s counselling program, all you need is a Mental Health Plan (which you can get from your GP) and call us on 1300 851 758 or email us at [email protected] With a Mental Health Care Plan we provide up to 10 free sessions with a perinatal mental health specialist.