How the loss of a friend inspired one Sydney woman to become a perinatal mental health advocate

How the loss of a friend inspired one Sydney woman to become a perinatal mental health advocate

Perinatal Mental Health

For 22 years Gidget Foundation Australia, has been working hard to ensure that expectant and new parents across Australia are not without their village of support. A key part of this journey is raising awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA), helping people identify the signs, focus on prevention measures, and reduce the stigma to ensure that no parents feels alone.

Sadly, our namesake, Louise, affectionately known as ‘Gidget,’ couldn’t find the support she needed, when she needed it and Gidget’s family and close-knit group of friends experienced a devastating loss when she took her own life while grappling with postnatal depression after the birth of her first child at the age of 34. This heartbreaking event, which occurred 22 years ago, marked the beginning of Gidget Foundation Australia, and set in motion a mission to support others facing similar challenges.

I vividly recall attending Gidget’s funeral, unaware of the profound impact her story would have on my own life, and subsequently parents across the country in the years to come. After her passing, Gidget’s sisters Simone and Jacqui, along with her close friends, Libby, Kim, Lou, Steph and Zarnie convened around a kitchen table to discuss a meaningful way to honour Gidget’s memory and help other mum and dads struggling with postnatal depression—a condition that was relatively unknown at the time.

What emerged from that kitchen table gathering was the Gidget Foundation, initially focused on fundraising for local parenting support services. Over time, fuelled by unwavering energy and commitment, Gidget’s circle of sisters and friends transformed the organisation into Australia’s leading national service provider of free specialist perinatal psychological support services.

Our journey started with a simple goal: to improve perinatal mental health support in Gidget’s local area, recognising the glaring lack of accessible resources. Today, Gidget Foundation Australia is a national organisation offering a comprehensive suite of services, supporting parents from conception to one year after birth, providing crucial support during this delicate and pivotal period.

From a single Gidget House in North Sydney, we have expanded to include 25 Gidget Houses across Australia, with 15 more in development. Our services now cover telehealth counselling, an innovative workforce training and education program, a podcast series, group therapy, and Gidget virtual villages, offering online support.

Perinatal Mental Health Week encourages us to take a moment to collectively reflect on the paramount importance of perinatal mental health and the challenges that parents face during this sensitive period. It serves as a stark reminder of the driving force behind our efforts and the persistent need for more awareness, support, and collective action.

The statistics surrounding perinatal mental ill-health in Australia are alarming, one in five mothers and one in ten fathers grapple with the effects of diagnosed perinatal depression and anxiety each year, impacting almost 100,000 Australians annually. These numbers emphasise the nature of the issue, affecting a substantial portion of the population and highlighting the urgency of intervention and support.

Additionally, more than half of new parents experience adjustment disorders, shedding light on the inherent difficulty of adapting to parenthood. This transformative period, filled with both joy and challenge, emphasises the critical need for enhanced supports to ensure all parents have the opportunity to transition smoothly.

Perinatal Mental Health Week is a reminder of the ongoing need for awareness and support for expectant and new parents. It prompts us to reassess existing support structures and advocates for the availability of mental health resources to ensure that no parent faces these challenges alone.

As we navigate this week dedicated to perinatal mental health, acknowledging the work that remains to be done, we also take a moment to celebrate the progress made by our team. This November marks a significant milestone in Gidget Foundation Australia’s journey, with 70,000 appointments delivered free to over 7,500 families across Australia. With a target of 50 Gidget Houses and 230 clinicians by 2027, Gidget Foundation Australia’s ‘family’ continues to grow, fuelled by an unstoppable vision.

By fostering open discussions, promoting understanding, and investing in mental health initiatives, we collectively strive towards a future where perinatal mental health is a prioritised aspect of mental wellbeing, and the journey to parenthood is supported with compassion and resilience.


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