Prospect of parenthood met with more anxiety than ever

THE ARRIVAL of a newborn child should be the happiest day of every parent's life.

But for one in seven women and in a growing number of men, the prospect of parenthood is often met with bouts of anxiety, shrouded with deep depression and feelings of inadequacy.

To highlight the impact of the condition, scores of families converged at Victoria Park on Thursday to support the city's own Postnatal Depression Awareness campaign.

The event was flanked by the findings of a new report this week, which claimed the condition could cost newly-christened parents upward of $500 million in health related expenses by the time their child turns two.

The Beyond Blue report claimed of the estimated 290,000 babies born this year, more than a seventh would have parents who suffer some form of post or perinatal depression during the first two years of their child's life.

Western NSW Local Health District clinical nurse Anne Roth believed the condition was more widespread than initial estimates, and advocated losing stigmas as the best way to break the depression cycle.

"Networking with other mothers is key to helping pull the covers off perinatal depression... women shouldn't needlessly suffer in silence, and it's events like these, happening around the country, which will hopefully prompt more women to talk about their condition," Ms Roth said.

Ms Roth also believed changing attitudes in men, through transparency and education, would be a defining factor in reversing the upward trend of depression in many mothers - a fact local health promotion officer Dave Honeysett agreed with.

A father of five children aged 6 to 15, Mr Honeysett understood the pressure raising young children had on a family.

While he believed support services were more easily accessible, many men still saw postnatal depression as a "woman's issue".

"I think men, in general, struggle from a sympathetic viewpoint," Mr Honeysett said.

"But we sought help for our own family at one point, and I personally believe one of the best defences you could have as a parent is a routine for your children."

The report estimated mothers could spend more than $70 million in hospital bills for the year between their child's first and second birthday. For fathers, hospital costs associated with post and perinatal depression were expected to hit $16 million over the same period.

"Men still want a 'one-stop-shop' approach to getting help," Mr Honeysett said.

Ms Roth said both parents still generally struggled with acceptance, but hoped as support groups broadened both would find it easier to ask for help.

"Women are so afraid of asking for help because of the inadequacy they feel, while similarly the men feel helpless in being unable to comfort their partners," Ms Roth said.

Health and promotion officer Elissa Magner agreed and said a large portion of Thursday's event at Victoria Park was dedicated to the men in those women's lives.

"We had a lot of information booths and speakers for the mums, including Maggie Dent, but we also targeted the dads through a range of power tool displays and a Men's Shed stand in the hope they'd come along and pick up on some of the information we had available for treating perinatal depression and anxiety," Ms Magner said.

The event was the first ever of that scale for locals, with as many as eight government agencies, non-government support groups and small businesses on board for what would become an annual fixture on the city's promotional health calendar.

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