More than 50% of parents with a perinatal mental illness contemplated taking their own lives while they were ill, a charity report has found.
On top of this, 80% of the 1,047 parents who had experienced a mental illness during pregnancy or after birth surveyed by PANDAS Foundation (Pre And Postnatal Depression Advice and Support) believe there is not enough support for perinatal mental illnesses.
Just over a quarter (28%) of the parents involved in the small scale study said their first visit to a health care professional about their mental illness did not lead to diagnosis or support.
“We know first hand from our users how terrible these illnesses can be and how vital support services are,” Amy Dear, a spokesperson from PANDAS told The Huffington Post UK.
PANDAS Foundation ran the survey in conjunction with ITV Regional News to mark the launch of the UK’s first ever Pre- and Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (#PNDAW16) from 5 to 11 September 2016.
Among the parents involved in the survey, 82% have suffered from postnatal depression and 52% experienced postnatal anxiety.
A third of parents with a pre- or postnatal mental illness said they didn’t get the amount of support from their family and friends they felt they needed.
Dear believes breaking down the stigma that is attached to mental illness will help new parents get the support they need.
“When people are suffering with the affects of postnatal depression they often believe they will be judged, misunderstood or even dismissed for how they feel,” she explained.
“It’s an illness that attacks people at a very vulnerable time, and that can make people afraid to speak up.”
According to Dear many people questioned in the survey said it would have helped if they had been given more information about PND and other mental illnesses, both pre- and postnatally.
“It would definitely make a difference to have information given to women on their booking appointments, and having their mental wellbeing assessed at sustainer appointments,” she said.
“We need to prioritise giving mental health the same importance as physical wellbeing.”
Where can parents get support?
“The most important thing is to speak to someone,” said Dear.
“Friends and family care and will want to help their loved ones. GPs can also diagnose postnatal depression and other perinatal mental illnesses.
“It’s important for those suffering to get a diagnosis and find out what treatment is best for them.
“If they aren’t comfortable speaking to their GP, they can also speak to midwives, health visitors or go to walk-in centres.”
Dear also suggested peer support groups, such as the ones that run at PANDAS, where you can speak to other parents in the same situation.