Parents in the Park Brings PANDA to light

Becoming a new parent can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be.

A local initiative to raise awareness surrounding perinatal anxiety and depression is hoping to help local mums and dads when the ‘new baby blues’ cross over into something more serious.

One in five women and one in seven men will suffer from depression and anxiety associated with having a newborn: “There’s nobody that I’ve spoken to that doesn’t know somebody who has had post-natal anxiety or depression, which just furthers the feelings of isolation,” Kate Turnbull, organiser of the May 26th “Parents in the Park” event said.

“I know after I had my first, I felt this huge pressure to be fine. Almost to be flourishing with this new baby because you didn’t want it to come across that you weren’t a fantastic mother,” Kate said.

“Everybody says: “The minute you first see your baby you feel this incredible love”, but I was just exhausted.”

“I mean, I was happy, but I wasn’t feeling what all these people said I should be feeling. You start to think, “Am I just a crappy Mum? Am I just not fit for this?”

“Parents in the Park” at Tondoon Botanic Gardens on May 26th will bring together information from PANDA, the national organisation to support sufferers of perinatal anxiety and depression, a group PT session lead by Tamara Murphy, a specialist in post-birth exercise, and loads of free activities to keep the kids busy if parents want to have a quiet chat.

Untreated ante- and post-natal anxiety and depression can lead to ongoing mental health problems. “There are women whose children are five now, and they’re still suffering anxiety and depression. It’s like anything – if you get sick, or something gets infected and you don’t treat it, it turns into something else,” Kate said. And with one in seven dads also hurting, PANDA has recently started the “How’s Dad going?” information campaign.

“You just need to jump on the PANDA website and there are heaps of stories of people who are going through this. Their mantra is “it’s not normal but it is common” – and you only have to read a few of the stories to know you’re not alone in this,” Kate said.

Now expecting her third baby in July, Kate works at Komatsu in Gladstone. Komatsu are funding Parents in the Park as part of their “Live The Dream” program supporting employees with their community building ideas and projects.

“Corporate responsibility is something that Komatsu is really leaning into,” Kate said.

“They’re really proud of this. I can’t remember the number of applications they got, but they got so many that in the end they decided to fund eight projects” Kate said.

“One of our guys went and built a library in Cambodia, another lady is setting up free fitness boot-camp classes in her area in Sydney; another guy, they’ve restored an old VW car and they’re going to fundraise for the RFDS while driving it up the east coast of Australia.”

Parents in the Park will be held at the Tondoon Botanic Gardens on Saturday 26 May. The event is completely not for profit and aims to put the connection back into the hands of those who need it most. For more information on this topic, consult the PANDA website: www.panda.org.au

The signs and symptoms of postnatal anxiety and depression can vary and may include:

  • Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)
  • Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of baby
  • The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
  • Increased sensitivity to noise or touch
  • Changes in appetite: under or overeating
  • Sleep problems unrelated to the baby’s needs
  • Extreme lethargy: a feeling of being physically or emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of chores and looking after baby
  • Memory problems or loss of concentration (‘brain fog’)

Loss of confidence and lowered self esteem

  • Constant sadness or crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Fear of being alone with baby
  • Intrusive thoughts of harm to yourself or baby
  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

PANDA’s Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline 1300 726 306

Mon – Fri  9am – 7.30pm