The arrival of a friend’s baby usually brings great excitement and anticipation of a lifetime of shared celebrations and playdates.
But what happens if your friend struggles after the new arrival?
More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads are diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety each year in Australia . Many more struggle without help due to stigma or because they don’t recognise the symptoms of PNDA.
Often a friend is the first to notice when something is not right. It can be difficult to know what to do or say, especially if you think your friend will not be open to talking about it.
So how can you tell if your friend might have postnatal depression, and how can you help?
How to tell if your friend has postnatal depression and anxiety
Find out as much as you can about postnatal depression and anxiety. The combination of causes and signs will differ in each person.
Common symptoms include:
- changes in appetite
- inability to sleep even if baby is sleeping
- feeling sad, inadequate, overwhelmed or numb
- fear of being alone
- fear of baby
- withdrawing from others
Symptoms common to men include:
- withdrawing from family
- throwing themselves into work
- increased use of drugs or alcohol
While it’s common for new parents to have some ‘down days’ as they adjust to parenthood, symptoms that last for two weeks or more and impact daily functioning indicate it’s time to get help.
How can you help your friend with postnatal depression and anxiety?
Encourage your friend to talk about it
It can be very difficult for new parents to admit they’re not coping. Encourage your friend to share his or her concerns and feelings rather than bottling them up. Talking is often the first step in recognising, accepting and seeking help for postnatal depression or anxiety.
Encourage your friend to seek help
Encourage your friend to seek help if they have been struggling with symptoms for two weeks or more. PANDA’s national Helpline, a GP or a Maternal Health Nurse can help work out what is going on and organise the right supports for recovery.
Provide emotional support
Provide non-judgmental support. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say. Listening and being there helps. Try to validate your friend’s experiences and understand that their concerns are real. Express the expectation that they will recover from PNDA with help. Most importantly, support their accomplishments, even the little things.
Provide practical support
Offer to help with practical tasks or child-minding while your friend attends appointments. Support them to take time out to rest or engage in self-care.
Support treatment options
Be supportive if medication, counselling, support groups or other treatments are required. These are important for recovery.
Hang in there
It can take time for parents to recognise and accept that something may be wrong. You might feel frustrated or disappointed if it seems your friend is resisting help. Hang in there. Be patient, keep listening and remember that your friend will recover with the right support.
Call for back-up if needed
Trust your instincts. If you become seriously concerned about your friend’s wellbeing or ability to look after themselves or their children, call for back-up.
Look after yourself
Importantly, remember to look after yourself. Supporting a friend with postnatal depression or anxiety can be hard and you need to look after your own wellbeing. Do things that nurture you, take a break, and seek support for yourself.
– written by Jenni Richardson (PANDA Acting CEO 2015)
If you or anyone you know has postnatal depression or anxiety phone PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306. The helpline operates Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7:30pm EST.