Raising Community Awareness on Women’s Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy and After Birth [Interview][Transcript]

Terri-Smith_CEO_PANDA_ORGGuest: Terri Smith
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Terri Smith was appointed CEO of PANDA in December 2014 bringing a commitment to developing PANDA’s role as a voice for families affected by perinatal anxiety and depression. Terri brings a wealth of experience to PANDA as an experienced not-for-profit executive. She has previously served as CEO of a professional health association, Deputy CEO/National Program and Policy Manager for Breast Cancer Network Australia and Director of Client Services for Moreland Community Health Services.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, know more about Perinatal Anxiety and Depression from PANDA CEO Terri Smith. Among the services they provide is their helpline staffed by professional counsellors and supervising staff for support and referral service. This service aims to have each caller supported and have gained an increased understanding of what might be happening to them and how they might seek ongoing services and supports in their local areas. They also aim to facilitate learning of callers about perinatal depression and anxiety as well as provide specialist training professionals related to this field.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today is Terri Smith. Terri is the CEO of PANDA and PANDA is the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia. Terri welcome to Health Professional Radio.

Terri Smith: Thank you.

W: Now it’s a pleasure to have you on board but I have to say when I just looked at panda.org.au your website, the domain doesn’t instantly tell me what you do. So tell me what it is that PANDA does.

T: Okay. PANDA’S core activity I guess is our National Helpline, so that’s a National Helpline running just from Monday to Friday from 10am till 5pm which is available to families across the country who want to talk at all about an experience of depression or anxiety, either during their pregnancy or through after the birth. So commonly we will talk to families from anywhere from those couple of months of pregnancy through to say a year or after the birth of their child.

W: Now Terri Perinatal Anxiety and Depression is something I’ve heard of, is it common?

T: Oh it’s very common. I’m gonna break it down to a little bit because it’s common but it’s a bit complex as well. So a lot of people are aware of postnatal depression, I guess. The post-natal depression we’ve been using that term for look, a few good decades. We understood that in that period after the birth it’s not uncommon at all for women in particular to experience a depression and they’re very complex causes of that depression it’s not what people often think of purely a hormonal experience as some women is about hormones but it also can be a wide range of other factors. So we’ve talked about postnatal depression quite a bit and I think that a lot of listeners are probably aware of that particular experience. And it’s actually 1 in 7 new moms are going to experience post-natal depression. So it’s a lot I think if people look around amongst their patient group or for that matter amongst their friends so they will be able to think. So there’s people in my network are may well might have known that that was their experience. And certainly in this conversation today we’re hoping to encourage health professionals to think a bit more about the patient in front of them and what might be a disconnect between the information they’re presenting and their real life experience. So I’ll go through some of those figures, we start up with 1 in 7 women in the post-natal period will experience depression. More surprisingly perhaps one in 10 dads in the post-natal period, we’ve been talking as well to dads.

W: Oh really?

T: Yes. It’s the large number and we have been talking 12 months ago this figure we would have be quoting with 1 in 20. But we have new information out from the Institute of Family Studies now confirming that 1 in 10 experience, and I did say before this is a complex area. And one of the key causes of post-natal depression in men or risk factor is that their partner is experiencing depression. So it’s not uncommon to have experience where both mom and dad have, are experiencing post-natal depression. So that’s depression and post-natal we’ve covered all. Anxiety in the post-natal period both for women and men, there’s not clear data about anxiety but we do know that it at least as common as depression. And really this year there’s a big emphasis from our organization on focusing on anxiety to help people understand that this is as important as depression certainly can be as debilitating. And some of the feedback we get from our callers thru our National Helpline and I think we’ve managed as close to 50,000 calls now over the last five years. So I think we’re in a pretty good position to talk about what we’re hearing from callers. But often people delay calling because well they’re sort of got an awareness of depression, they think it is this doesn’t feel like depression and it’s because it’s not, because it’s anxiety. So it might be irritation, agitation even a sense of feeling angry, some of those heightened feelings. So in depression where our callers are experiencing a low mood or slighting often things are a bit gray, they’re having literally getting out of bed or getting on with day to day tasks, whereas anxiety they might still have getting on those day to day task but it comes from a quite different angle. It’s really related to an agitation, a heightened mood if you like, that’s not always positive … of course. So anxiety just as important, all of that happening with both moms and dads in the post-natal period but that’s in we know the antenatal period or during the pregnancy is also a time where both depression and anxiety can impact significantly, again on both moms and dads. So anxiety in the antenatal period we’re looking at 1 in 10 moms, and probably in 1 and 20 dads. So at any level whether you’re looking at the antenatal period, the postnatal period, depression or anxiety really have a considerable incident occurring and the most important thing we know is that as earlier as someone can identify their symptoms, the earlier they can get help and the better I suppose both mom and dad will be. But also really importantly the baby because of course there’s always another person involved in this discussion.

W: And Terri you mentioned that the point you were trying to make with clinicians and that’s as you say 90% of our audience and so the take home message for them today is that the traditional thinking of postnatal depression is not broad enough.

T: No, that’s right, it’s much broader. And I think the other really important message is I know everyone is really busy in their day to day consultations but one of the things we hear constantly from callers thru our services because we’ll always say “Have you talked to your GP?” “Have you told your partner? Have you talked to your GP?” there’s all these conversations where we’re having and very often we’re finding that our callers haven’t told those people nearest to them or their primary health professional that this is what they’re feeling so that part of our core assessment process we would always in each and every call ask someone if they have thought about hurting themselves, if they have thought about hurting their baby. And I think it’s easy to assume that someone is doing well because parents are pretty good at putting on that, often our callers we hear this term of putting on the mask.

W: Yes.

T: And by the time you’ve got your baby, cleaned up and ready to go out and you self-cleaned often, ready to go out and you’re up to the GP and you just probably want to get out of their house quickly as you can. If you have an experience not because the GP experiences generally a bad one. But if you’ve got a story to hide then, yeah could be that part of your gender is trying to keep that pretty quick, but all the while it may well be that they’re actually hoping that someone is actually going to ask them how they are actually coping. And of course it’s confused, it’s tough, it’s hard to distinguish between any mom or dad or new parent is gonna report that they had trouble sleeping. The question is how much trouble have you had sleeping? I was having this conversation with this woman the other day and she’s saying we’re taking about it, sure, she had trouble sleeping that someone had not thought to ask if their baby was having trouble sleeping too and in fact their baby was sleeping really well. It was the mom who was having trouble sleeping which was a sign that things weren’t right. Because to most parents it’s the baby’s getting on and getting off to sleep well then there’s a celebration there isn’t it? We’d better get some sleep with ourselves right now.

W: Yes.

T: But if it’s difficult and that might be a sign of anxiety. So I think there it’s just so important for health professionals to have in the background that what’s said upfront and we know this for many health conditions. But what’s being reported might not be always be the full story. So that actually inquiring in an open way that allows an answer which actually says things are falling apart, because sometimes that’s what’s happening. And in fact there’s great opportunities for early intervention in depression and anxiety in the perinatal period.

W: Now Terri do parents and expecting parents need to get a referral to contact PANDA?

T: No, absolutely not. As a Helpline it’s just a phone call away so no referral required at all. So it’s a good port of searching information as the website there is a range of information available on the PANDA website. Sometimes what people need is a little bit of information and they can feel more able to just get on and have a constructive conversation with their GP. Sometimes even in the course of our calls sometimes we’re helping people to think about how they’re gonna frame that conversation “So how will you tell your GP about this call we’ve had?” And certainly we’ve been encouraging, always encouraging callers to our service to report back to their GP and indeed to Maternal Child Health Nurses because with their or Family Health referring to some states. But they’re also really important players and we’re always reminding our callers that their helpers, their health carers want to know what’s going on in their lives.

W: And that PANDA website that have been given here is www.panda.org.au

T: That’s right, thank you. And the helpline number as well

W: Yes, please.

T: If we can go to that site. The panda helpline 1300-726-306. Can I just mention too if it’s dads in particular we have a separate website which is www.howisdadgoing.org.au and that’s an opportunity, it’s specifically for dads. And if dad’s both having their own experience of depression or anxiety but also for dads to help them help their partner’s experiences. It’s so important to understand, it’s a whole family. If someone in the family is impacted at this really crucial time then it’s gonna impact on everyone and it’s hard, often really hard. And a partner to know how to support either the mom or dad when they’re having a tough time or in this the context of the time where new baby usually is seen as the time brings great joy. So I think dad community was still really unwilling to talk about mental illness but that’s even more difficult at the time when there is an expectation that everyone is gonna be over the moon because there is a new baby being brought home.

W: Yeah. And we have got a lot better of that talking about mental health and mental illness but we’ve got a long way to go I think.

T: I absolutely agree, that’s born out every day in our phone calls. And look it’s not uncommon for a mom to tell us that they were reluctant to seek help because they feel that they’re a bad parent and perhaps someone’s gonna take their baby away. And that’s the women right across the social spectrum, it’s not just … I think we’ve have perhaps some contact with government agencies in the past. It’s the nature of depression or anxiety mental illness in that space that people aren’t always being as rational as they might be. So people’s ideas can get pretty confused at that time.

W: Well Terri it’s been lovely having you on to have a chat with you today. I hope we can do a little bit to spread the word about PANDA. We’re unfortunately never going to shake the earth when it comes to media because we’re just a little media outlet but we will have some people listening.

T: Every step is important. And we always say from our work that each small stick makes a difference. So thanks very much for having us on today.

W: Thank you for having us on. And if you’ve missed my conversation with Terri Smith CEO of PANDA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, then the good news is we have a transcript on our website at www.hpr.fm. And you can also find links there to an audio archive of our chat which is on both YouTube and SoundClound. Once again the website for people interested getting in touch with PANDA is www.panda.org.au. My name is Wayne Bucklar and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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