on Aug 10, 22

Reducing the stigma around perinatal mental health

By Arwen Hann - Pregnancy and having a new baby should be a joyful time, but for some parents, it doesn't quite work out that way. For some, especially those who have previously suffered from depression or other mental health issues, the overwhelming feelings that come with being a new parent can be just too much.

That's where the work of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa (PADA) comes in.

Before PADA (originally known as the Perinatal Mental Health New Zealand Trust ) was set up in 2011, there was no national organisation looking at perinatal health - mental health and wellbeing anytime during pregnancy, childbirth or the first two years of a child's life -  in Aotearoa New Zealand.

For the past decade, PADA has worked to reduce the stigma around perinatal mental health. The organisation also works to improve resources and best practices for care providers, including GPs and nurses, midwives, Plunket nurses and volunteers at groups like Playcentres across the country to help them support families and whanau during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting.

Fundraising Manager Denise Graham says ensuring that birthing parents have good mental health during pregnancy and the first 1000 days of a child's life is vital.

"Research tells us that if a birthing parent has good physical and mental health, then the outcomes for their children are much better," Denise says. "We want all children to thrive, and that can only happen when we support parents through those crucial periods. Sadly the stigma around mental health, which still exists, stops many people from reaching out when they need help and getting the support they need. But mental health is a normal thing - just like your physical health. People shouldn't feel ashamed, and the sooner they ask for help, the better the outcome".

More recently, PADA has strengthened its work with Māori and Pasifika communities in response to the increased risk for mothers from these cultures.

“Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in Aotearoa New Zealand, and Māori and Pasifika women are seven times more likely to take their lives during pregnancy or within a few weeks of birth than European women," Denise says. "We want to help all women, but we only have limited resources, so we need to focus on those communities that need the most support.

PADA has created training programmes to help break down cultural barriers between providers and those needing help, focusing on creating more equitable access and ensuring that particularly Māori and Pasifika parents feel that they can ask for help when they need it.

Like many health and wellbeing organisations, PADA has also seen demand for its services increase during the Covid-19 pandemic. Denise says PADA used to get maybe one phone call a week from a parent in distress or looking to connect with a service that could help them, and now they get calls daily.

"Covid has really impacted on people's mental health and brought about increased struggles," Denise says. "And birthing parents have been impacted because they've had to birth often with no support due to restrictions, or had less support in the early days at home".

Denise says PADA's relationship with The Good Registry is invaluable, not only in terms of the monetary donations but also in terms of exposure.

"The Good Registry contributes thousands of dollars to us, but it's about more than just the money. It's also about the help it gives us to promote our work and let people know we are here and that they can access support," Denise says. "We are not a high-profile charity, so without support from our donors and organisations like The Good Registry, we wouldn't be able to do what we do, and we certainly couldn't grow".

How you can help

By choosing to support PADA through The Good Registry, you can help to support women across New Zealand who need help during pregnancy and in that crucial first year. Just $25 helps to provide information and resources to parents; $50 can help to organise a seminar, and $75 can help to educate training providers and provide the tools they need to work in their communities.

Just set up your registry and choose PADA as your charity partner. Or you can choose PADA from The Good Registry’s 65 charity partners if you have a Good Gift Card to redeem.

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