The Department of Health has revealed that the incidence and severity of perinatal depression and anxiety has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department said the number of new callers to the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline had doubled since March, with 43 per cent of calls coming from Victoria.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said expectant and new parents were supported through the extension of the Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program.
“Almost 100,000 parents are affected by perinatal depression and anxiety each year,” Mr Hunt said.
“One in 10 women experience this while pregnant and one in seven in the year after birth. Men can also experience perinatal mental illness, with about one in 10 expectant and new fathers experiencing depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress.”
He said callers to the helpline were also experiencing more intense and enduring mental illnesses with call times rising from 15-to-30 minutes prior to COVID-19 to 30-to-45 minutes now.
The Minister said the additional funding would ensure the PANDA and other key national programs would continue to support women and their families affected by perinatal mental illness, or experiencing grief after the death of a child.
“Dedicated perinatal mental health support, perinatal loss and bereavement peer support, and perinatal mental health promotion and training will be delivered by trusted organisations right across Australia,” Mr Hunt said.
“This will complement the work being done by Primary Health Networks in ensuring tailored local mental health services are available on-the-ground in every community,” he said.