Gidget Foundation Australia launches its national ‘Start Talking’ program in Sydney to support parents experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA).

By Sharon Masige


Posted on April 19, 2018

Sydney-based not-for-profit organisation, Gidget Foundation Australia, has unveiled its new ‘Start Talking’ telehealth program, providing new and expecting parents up to seven free video calls from a specially trained perinatal psychologist to help them deal with perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA).

Depression and anxiety are known to have an impact on parents both during pregnancy and after giving birth (the perinatal period), with one in five new mothers and one in 10 new fathers in Australia suffering from PNDA. This equates to nearly 100,000 new and expecting parents each year.

Depression and anxiety are known to have an impact on parents both during pregnancy and after giving birth (the perinatal period), with one in five new mothers and one in 10 new fathers in Australia suffering from PNDA.

According to the foundation, PNDA can be diagnosed when an expectant or new parent is experiencing strong emotions that impact negatively on their ability to function as usual and that has lasted for two weeks or more. It is then accompanied by a lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life and an inability to plan for the future.

“For most people, being a new parent is a joy but most mothers will also experience worry, disappointment, guilt, competition, frustration and often fear,” Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson said at the launch event.

The program was established to get new and expectant parents to start talking about what has been considered a taboo subject. It was also designed to provide families who would otherwise struggle to receive timely and supportive care for PNDA – particularly those in regional and rural New South Wales.

“We’ve found that when people use the video call option, it has a disinhibiting effect, meaning that they find it easier to ‘open up’,” Gidget Foundation Australia Clinical Psychologist Chris Barnes added. “Recent evidence also shows that when in expert hands, video counselling is just as effective as being face to face.”

A national advertising campaign raising awareness of PNDA was also launched at the lunchtime event, which will be featured on free-to-air television, FOXTEL, in GP waiting room televisions and in cinemas throughout metro and regional Australia.

The launch was attended by Gidget ambassador and ABC state political reporter Brigid Glanville, and Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Women Tanya Davies – both shared their experiences with PNDA to a captivated audience.

Furthermore, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales John Barilaro, together with Davies, announced A$270,000 in funding to support the Start Talking program. “I hope it’s the start of long-term funding and partnership with the Gidget Foundation,” Barilaro said.

“I think it’s wonderful what the foundation is doing; using technology to break down the tyranny of distance, and the obstacles and impediments that we face in rural and regional New South Wales.”

Davies added that the funding was going to further expand mental health services to support new parents. “We need to encourage everyone of our young mums and dads, and say to them that it’s okay not to be perfect,” she said. “And if you need assistance or if you need someone to talk to then there are a myriad of services that the New South Wales government does provide.”

Gidget Foundation Australia Chairman and obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Vijay Roach, who was also present at the event, said he is often witness to the anxiety, sadness and worry that goes with being pregnant or being a new parent.

“The most important message is that through this program, what you can achieve is that you will get better,” he said.

Gibson highlighted that becoming a mother is one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience, “and yet we experience this identity shift in relative silence”.

Becoming a mother is one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience, “and yet we experience this identity shift in relative silence”.

“One of the key reasons that expecting and new parents struggle with PNDA and seek help is because they don’t understand or recognise what’s actually happening to them,” she said.

“It’s our mission at Gidget Foundation Australia to drive awareness about this issue and to build, develop and sustain programs for both intervention and treatment to ensure that people with this condition go on to live genuinely happy and fulfilling lives.”