Families suffer as mothers struggle to speak out about postnatal depression

Joe Lepper
Sunday, October 2, 2011

Half of mothers with postnatal depression are going without the support they need to avert long-term problems for their families, according to a report by the charity 4Children.

Lack of bonding with their baby at an early stage can harm the child’s development, according to the report, Suffering in Silence.

Untreated postnatal depression can also have a devastating effect on older children, the report adds.

In a 4Children-commissioned survey of more than 2,000 mothers, of those who had suffered postnatal depression, 49 per cent said they had not sought any professional help.

A third said they were too scared to tell anyone about their postnatal depression out of fear of the consequences for them and their children.

This latest report is part of 4Children’s Give Me Strength campaign to promote early intervention and prevent family crises.

The charity is calling on the Department of Health to launch a campaign to halt stigma around the illness. GPs also need to do more to signpost support groups and psychological therapies, it said.

Among its recommendations, 4Children is calling for a greater focus on support for the entire family when postnatal depression is diagnosed, in particular for fathers and older children.

Lack of information about support available is another trend highlighted. Of those surveyed, 65 per cent wanted more information on support groups and around a half called for better promotion of counselling.

Half of those surveyed were not satisfied with the information they received about symptoms.

Despite National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines recommending the use of counselling and psychological therapies, too often GPs offer antidepressants instead. Seven out of 10 women with postnatal depression said their GP prescribed antidepressants, while only four out of 10 are referred on to counsellors and other therapists.

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said: "Postnatal depression is a problem that, with the right help early on, can be treated successfully, avoiding long-term impact on the rest of the family.

"However, many families are suffering the consequences of postnatal depression in silence, and even when they do seek help they all too often encounter a wall of indifference and a lack of empathy from medical professionals with an over-reliance on antidepressants for treatment."

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