Speaking up about postnatal depression and anxiety
Susan Boden says she couldn’t bear to be alone after the birth of her second child and when she was, she was so overcome with fear and worry that she could hardly function.
Susan had just given birth to son Naoise (pronounced Neesha), but was feeling increasingly anxious to the point that she was unable to make decisions about the simplest things, such as whether to wash her hair.
“I felt that if I could evaporate, I would. I was exhausted and I had this overwhelming sense of not being able to cope,” Susan said. “When my husband and I returned home from a walk one day and I dreaded going back inside the house, I knew I couldn’t go on like this.”
Susan sought help from a GP, who diagnosed postnatal depression.
“I was relieved to know there was a reason for how I was feeling and that I would get better,” she said.
Susan is sharing her experience as part of Just Speak Up, a new campaign developed by beyondblue: the national depression initiative to raise awareness of pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety.
Postnatal depression affects one in seven new mothers while one in 10 pregnant women experiences antenatal depression(1). Anxiety is even more common.
Research shows that more than half the population thinks it is normal to feel depressed during pregnancy and almost a quarter believe postnatal depression will go away on its own as the baby gets older(2).
The campaign encourages mums, dads and carers to “just speak up” and get the help they need. It includes a series of television and print advertisements featuring real people (not actors) talking candidly about their experiences and a new website www.JustSpeakUp.com.au that gives people an opportunity to hear others’ stories and share their own.
Susan’s advice to other mums, who may be feeling anxious or showing signs of postnatal depression, is “trust your instincts”.
“If you think something is wrong, then you’re probably right,” Susan said. “I knew I was in trouble six weeks after Naoise was born, so I went to see my GP.
“The best thing you can do, for yourself and for your children, is get well – speak up. You don’t have to find the perfect set of words, you just have to start a conversation.”
Father of two Simon Doquile, who also features in the Just Speak Up Campaign, says hindsight is a wonderful thing. Simon admits that if he had known more about postnatal depression, he would have been more sympathetic to his wife Gab’s needs.
He says there was a lot happening in their lives when second son Christian was born – first son Gus was unwell, their home was being renovated and Simon was putting in long hours at work.
“When I look back now, I knew something was wrong, but I just didn’t know what. If I had been aware of postnatal depression, I would have been more supportive,” Simon said. “But instead, we stopped communicating and that was one of the worst things we could have done.
“When Gab started to dread getting out of bed every day, she took herself off to a doctor. I am so impressed that she did that on her own, but even with the diagnosis, I wasn’t sure about it. I still wondered whether she was just tired.
“But after we discussed it and she explained everything the doctor had said, it was like this big weight had lifted from our shoulders – there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
Simon said it is important for men to know the signs and symptoms of pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety.
“I think blokes should just take a bit more time to become aware and understand that this could happen to their partner – and keep talking, it’s that simple.”
For more information about postnatal depression and anxiety, available treatments and where to get help, visit www.beyondblue.org.au, call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To share your story or hear from others, like Simon and Susan, go to www.JustSpeakUp.com.au.
1. Based on ABS Census figures for projected births 2008-2013; The beyondblue National Postnatal Depression Program. Prevention and Early Intervention 2001-2005. Final Report. Volume 1: National Screening Program
2. Highet, N., beyondblue Perinatal Monitor phone survey of 1,201 Australians 2009