‘I need help’: Reasons new and re-engaging callers contact the PANDA-Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia National Helpline Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • In Australia, the PANDA-Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia National Helpline (the Helpline) offers support to callers impacted by emotional health challenges in the perinatal period. Callers receive counselling from professional staff and peer support from volunteers. An understanding of factors that contribute to callers' experiences of emotional distress, as well as potential barriers and facilitators to help-seeking, can be used to inform future service design and delivery. A caller intake form is completed by Helpline staff when an individual contacts the service for the first time, or re-engages after a period of non-contact. We analysed all intake forms of individuals calling about their own emotional wellbeing from the middle month of each season in 2014: January, April, July, and October. Content analysis was undertaken, focusing on caller profile, patterns of help-seeking, and reasons for caller engagement. Of the 365 calls, the majority were from women (n = 358, 98%) who were pregnant (n = 59, 16%) or had a child ≤12 months of age (n = 241, 75%). Many were seeking support regarding depression (n = 186, 51%) or anxiety (n = 162, 44%), with a number seeking help for both (n = 71, 20%). Almost a third were identified as being 'at risk', including a number who were experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Complex interrelating factors contributed to callers' emotional distress, including: stressful life events; pregnancy, birthing and parenting experiences; social isolation; and histories of mental health difficulties. Significant numbers of parents experience emotional health challenges in the perinatal period, but many do not receive adequate treatment. Complex factors contribute to callers' distress, highlighting the need for health professionals to undertake thorough psychosocial assessments during the perinatal period so those that need additional support are identified, and appropriate care provided. Telephone Helplines like PANDAs assist overcoming barriers to care and provide specialised perinatal mental health support to families.

publication date

  • 2019