Depression :: National plan to tackle pre- and postnatal depression

A new Australian action plan to help women who experience depression during and after pregnancy is being developed by beyondblue: the national depression initiative, in association with a group of perinatal mental health experts.

The action plan is part of the National Perinatal Mental Health Program, which was jointly launched today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Brett Mason, and the beyondblue chairman, Jeff Kennett. The program builds on beyondblue?s earlier research on postnatal depression.

?Despite the large number of women affected, most remain unidentified and untreated. However, effective treatments for depression are available,? Senator Mason said.

?This can have long-term consequences. Depression in the perinatal period has been linked to chronic depression, marital difficulties and behavioural and learning delays in children. As a result, improved mental health for new and expectant mothers will provide real benefits for families and even future generations in some communities.?

Mr Kennett said that, for too long, too many pregnant women and new mothers with depression had not been getting the care and support they needed.

?We?ve done the research and now we?re developing the plan,? he said. ?We are sure that it will offer the support that women need at a crucial time in their lives,? he said.

?I thank the federal and state governments for their support. I look forward to seeing a universal assessment and care program for women at risk of depression rolled out in the not-too-distant future.?

Beyondblue expects to complete the national action plan by the end of 2007. It will emphasise prevention and early intervention in three areas:

Routine assessment of women for depression and related problems during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year.
Training health professionals torecognise and manage depression and related difficulties. This group includes GPs, midwives, obstetricians, maternal and child health nurses, child-protection workers and social workers.
Pathways to care, ensuring that women experiencing perinatal depression receive relevant information and professional help promptly ? wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.

From 2008 the plan will be available to assist all states and territories, across both the public and private sectors, to promote improved mental health and wellbeing for all women and their families during pregnancy and early parenthood Australia-wide.

Around 15 per cent of Australian women experience depression during pregnancy and early parenthood, with higher rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other vulnerable communities.

Senator Mason said the Australian Government was committed to ensuring that people experiencing depression received the treatment they needed, whatever their circumstances.

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