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Carmen Kong, a nurse unit manager in Melbourne, notes a significant increase in demand for perinatal support in the city’s outer south-west suburbs due to the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Mental health issues, financial distress, and family violence have all contributed to a rise in cases of perinatal depression and anxiety, with more complex cases being seen post-pandemic. Mercy Health, one of the few clinics in Victoria offering specialized inpatient mental health care for new mothers, receives around 300 referrals annually and admits about 80 mothers per year.

The Mother Baby Unit at Mercy Health provides crucial support for new mothers struggling with perinatal depression and anxiety. Women in the unit receive group therapy, mindfulness practices, and one-on-one support from nurses and psychiatrists. Social workers also help with housing and financial issues. Shae Bradshaw, one of the mothers admitted to the unit, credits the staff with saving her life during her darkest moments. The support and empowerment she received at the unit helped her overcome her struggles and build a stronger bond with her daughter.

Recent studies have shown a significant increase in cases of perinatal depression and anxiety among new mothers in Australia. A study of almost 67,000 pregnant women revealed that approximately one-quarter of them experienced anxiety or depression after giving birth. The rate of anxiety and depression has been steadily rising over the past decade, indicating a growing need for mental health support for new mothers. However, societal expectations often prevent women from seeking help early, leading to prolonged suffering.

Carmen Kong, with over 24 years of experience as a psychiatric nurse, emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for perinatal depression and anxiety. She finds fulfillment in seeing new mothers like Shae Bradshaw thrive after receiving support at the Mother Baby Unit. Kong highlights the transformation that occurs in new mothers during their stay at the unit, from feeling stuck in a dark place to regaining happiness and bonding with their infants. The focus is on empowering women to take control of their mental health and parenting journey.

Shae Bradshaw’s story of overcoming perinatal depression and anxiety serves as inspiration for other struggling new mothers. She encourages them to seek help for themselves and their babies, emphasizing the positive impact it can have on their lives. Bradshaw now sees her mental health journey as a gift and is grateful for the support she received at Mercy Health’s Mother Baby Unit. As she celebrates Mother’s Day with her extended family, Bradshaw reflects on her journey and the importance of reaching out for support during challenging times. If you or someone you know needs assistance, there are resources available such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and PANDA for support.

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