My name is Ross and I would like to share a few words about what it means to me to be a PANDA Community Champion.
The journey for me started over 22 years ago when my first son was born. Like most first time parents my wife and I took advice from as many sources as possible about how to do this and what to do when. We soon realised that there was no “instruction manual” for this little baby and we would be making most of this up as we went.
As time went on my wife began to show some signs of stress and anxiety as she was always concerned about being the best mum and wife in the universe. I constantly reminded her that she was and friends and family simply said that “most new mums sometimes feel this way” and so we took it to mean that this would be a passing phase. Yet at the same time I became concerned that perhaps something wasn’t quite right but couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
With much cajoling from me we sought out what help there was at the time and for the most part we were assured that it was the “baby blues” as they call it, and that this would all pass in time and that there was nothing to really worry about. My wife’s mother and sister also said that this was only a temporary phase and seemed reluctant to go into much detail as to how they knew this and what they had done to understand and cope with it.
Then when our son was approximately 3 months old our world imploded. My wife who had been inwardly and silently struggling with her feelings sadly took her own life. Friends and family rallied around us as best they could but even they were finding it difficult to provide any level of calm. It became an emotional tidal wave of blame, grief and anger and all of this in a media frenzy that was more interested in selling papers than helping to bring this important issue to light. What had just happened and why hadn’t I seen the signs, why hadn’t the healthcare professionals been able to do something more?
Skip forward to the present day and I was recently having a conversation with some first time mums about new babies and soon realised that sadly not much had changed from our health care provider’s perspective in terms of helping first time parents and that the process of help and support was very hit and miss. Something had to change and after an excellent discussion with a colleague I decided that I would take some personal responsibility to instigate some change and after some research and phone calls volunteered to become a PANDA Community Champion. As a Community Champion my mission is to raise awareness about perinatal anxiety and depression to ensure what happened to my family never happens to anyone else.
What I now know is that my wife was experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression – a serious and common mental health condition that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Perinatal anxiety and depression can develop during pregnancy or in the year after birth. Perinatal anxiety and depression has many faces and does not discriminate – it can affect anyone (male or female), and as was the case for my family, have devastating consequences if left untreated. The good news is that with the right support and treatment recovery is possible and that knowing the signs and seeking help early is the key to a faster recovery.
Help, Hope and Heal