JENNY BROCKIE: Tonight men and women share their stories and we look at what might help in that critical first year of a baby's life. Caroline, can I start with you, you tried IVF for five years before you had your daughter who is just about to two turn, is that right ?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: What happened after she was born?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Um, after Sarah was born things just didn't quite go to plan, they didn't go the way they were meant to and after she was born I didn't feel quite right.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did you feel? What did you feel?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Not a lot towards her, which I thought was strange, and just really couldn't get organised, couldn't really function the way I thought I should be.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you didn't feel anything when she was born?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Not really.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nothing at all?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Just not what I thought I should. Things didn't go the way I thought they were going to.
JENNY BROCKIE: And was the pregnancy fairly smooth?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Oh, it was fantastic, really, really great pregnancy and yeah, there was no bonding with her, there was no, I don't know, just there was no joy, overwhelming joy or anything, just wasn't right.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you want to keep her?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Not initially, no.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how long did that last, that feeling last?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Um, probably about the first three months of her life.
JENNY BROCKIE: Gosh, so how did you deal with that, with the demands that a baby places on any new mum if you didn't have any feelings for all at her?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Well I didn't in the end, I didn't cope with it. So I had extended family help and friends but it just didn't, didn't come together. So in the end, um, I sought help from professionals and from a public hospital in the mother and baby unit.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now your husband can't be here tonight but you issued him with an ultimatum just after the baby was born, didn't you? What was that ultimatum?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: After a few weeks when I was hospitalised, um, when I realised that things weren't just right with me, um, I figured that I really couldn't get myself together unless I had the space to do that and I wouldn't have the space with Sarah around. So I figured if I was not in a position where I was with her that I could actually do that and, um, unfortunately for me he didn't understand at the time. I mean now I can see why he didn't understand but at the time made perfect sense to me that if she wasn't in the picture, um, as in just somewhere else, um, with somebody else, then I could get better.
JENNY BROCKIE: So somewhere else with someone else for a while until you could get better or for good?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Either or would have probably been fine at the time.
JENNY BROCKIE: How long did the worst of those feelings last for you?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: The worst probably, probably all up about three months but once I'd been able to get some help and I'd been, um, prescribed some medication, which initially I didn't want to take, but once I realised it was a necessary evil to get me on the road to recovery, probably after the first three months the worst I think was over.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, we'll come back to the treatment a little bit later. I'd like to hear a few more stories before we do though. Brooke, you're 24, and your son Noah, we have a photo of here, he's 1 today I think, what's the last year been like for you?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Pretty stressful. Like Caroline I felt like I couldn't cope and I would call Rob on the phone every day asking him to come home and take him just so I could have some time to myself and I also didn't really feel anything when he was born and everybody around me was so elated that, um, that I just kind of fell by the wayside and just kind of went through the motions and, yeah, but every day I was on the phone to him begging him to come home.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how long did that last, Brooke?
BROOKE BULLOCK:Probably four, five months.
JENNY BROCKIE: Had you had any depression before?
JENNY BROCKIE: None at all?What were the symptoms, Brooke? What was it that you were feeling?
BROOKE BULLOCK:Lonely. Um, I'd gone from working and from uni to being completely alone a lot of the time or when I had Noah with him and having to deal with everything with him. Um, but when I was pregnant, um, it was lonely all the time and just being in bed and eating constantly or just isolating myself and even after I gave birth isolation was the number one thing that really got to me.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how bad did those feelings get?
BROOKE BULLOCK:You just wanted to drive in your car and just go. For me I just, I didn't want to come back, I just wanted some time for myself just to get over everything because I think when you have a child it's just "‘ it's so full on that you don't really have a chance to kind of move beyond that.
JENNY BROCKIE: So again, that feeling of wanting to get away, wanting to just try and deal with your feelings on your own?Yeah. Rob, how was all this affecting you?
ROBERT ALMOND:Stressful, very, very stressful. Trying to find that balance between, um, not only caring for a new baby but if I could see that Brooke obviously wasn't coping, um, not having the necessary skills to either help her with what she was dealing with or, um, not being able to split enough time between my son or Brooke to help either of them enough.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you feel helpless?
ROBERT ALMOND:Absolutely, absolutely helpless and in the end I just found myself just trying to work through just saying well if I can do this a little bit more, if I can do this little bit more and I was working myself to exhaustion at work, at home and then, you know, at night or, you know "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you think that you were depressed?
ROBERT ALMOND: At a point, yeah, probably felt it a lot later on than Brooke would have. Um, it would have just accumulated,when I was at work I felt like I was letting Brooke down because I wasn't helping her and when I was at home I felt that I wasn't doing my job. I felt guilty ever time I had to leave because it is my job, I have a responsibility to do it.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Noah's birth was a difficult birth, too, wasn't it, Brooke, can you tell us about that?
BROOKE BULLOCK:He was born five weeks premature. They had managed to stop the contractions a week earlier but my waters broke on Brownlow morning last year, today last year. Um "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Brownlow morning.
BROOKE BULLOCK:Yeah, because the doctor was complaining the whole time that he was missing the Brownlow and that will always stick in my head, but anyway.
JENNY BROCKIE: Goodness.
BROOKE BULLOCK: But yeah, I was due to give birth in a private hospital but because of the accreditation they weren't able to take me so I was, um, made to give birth in a public hospital that wasn't very nice and because I was a private patient they didn't want to deal with me.
JENNY BROCKIE: So all round it was not a good experience.
BROOKE BULLOCK: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: It was a horrible experience. Charles, you're here with your wife Susan, you had a 9"‘month"‘old baby when you found out you were having twins, we've got photos of them here. What happened when those twins arrived?
CHARLES WALE: Um, it was a lovely time to start with. It was a lot of work, um, but it was enjoyable but then the work got more or seemed to compound and get more and more and became more and more difficult. I'd also started a job fairly, um, a few months before as well and so that was building up as well so there was a lot going on in our lives. So we were, um, yes, extremely busy and, um, we could tell something wasn't right between us and with the babies and everything else.
JENNY BROCKIE: Susan, what was going on with you at this time?
SUSAN WALE:Initially I was elated to have three beautiful girls, um, but like Charles said, the work just kept compounding and I just didn't seem to be able to cope with the day"‘to"‘day running of the household and it just seemed to get busier and, um, I tried to please everyone within the family and some days, you know, when the babies all cried together I'd just cry with them.
JENNY BROCKIE: So when did you recognise that you needed to get help, that this was something bigger than just the difficulty of coping with three small children?
SUSAN WALE: Well the twins were 5 months old when I spoke to my GP about it initially so that's when I started to get really feeling physically ill. Um, it wasn't until January that I actually got into see the psychologist and actually acknowledged that there was a real issue, um, and over that Christmas period I had very depressive thoughts, um, and that's when I realised that, you know, if I was to be there for my family and be a good mum and to be a supportive wife, um, then I needed to get help and so it was the twins were about 8 months old.
JENNY BROCKIE: When you say you had very depressive thoughts, what do you mean?
SUSAN WALE: Um, I was thinking of suicide and, um, I'm not ashamed to say that now because I feel like I've got to a point where I can talk about it freely and, and not allow it to consume me.
JENNY BROCKIE: Charles, were you aware that it was this serious?
CHARLES WALE: No, not at the time, not until Sue got her diagnosis and, um, then I realised just how serious it was. I think Sue had tried to talk to me about it but, um, I'd not dismiss it but not consider that it was as serious as it actually was.
JENNY BROCKIE: Charles, what were you going through? Once you realised "‘ while all this was happening, while Susan was like this, what was it like for you?
CHARLES WALE: It was very hard, um, because, um, the whole "‘ the family, um, atmosphere was very strained, it was, um, we were having a lot of arguments at the time. Um, and as we were saying before, it just didn't seem to gel in any shape or form. You know, my beautiful wife with our three lovely children just wasn't the sort of ideal picture.
JENNY BROCKIE: Didn't match the picture.
CHARLES WALE:Yeah, wasn't the ideal picture we were supposed to have and, um, I found it very hard that my wife "‘ one of the reasons why I married this woman is that she is so strong and independent and all of that was gone. It just had disappeared and it was "‘
SUSAN WALE: And it was just as hard for me too because I pride myself on being strong and independent and to "‘ and the fact that I so wanted these little girls and then all of a sudden I can't cope with them, that was really difficult. But now I can.
JENNY BROCKIE: And we'll get on to how you got to that point where you can in a little while. I'd just like to hear from "‘ thank you very much for sharing that with us. I'd just like to hear from a couple more people here. Cathy, um, you're here with your husband Vijay, you have five children, I think we have a photo of your family. Let's go back to the birth of your first child, a long time ago, 17 years ago, tell us what happened.
CATHIE KNOX: Well, to begin with we in fact had two unplanned pregnancies within 11 months, which is not a very good advertisement for my obstetrician husband, but nevertheless.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, you know, he might not be an expert in contraception, we just don't know.
CATHIE KNOX: Yeah, so, the first, um, having said that, I was rather delighted that I was pregnant, had the first baby and it was a very long, drawn out and rather stressful birth. Um, I in fact realised many years later that I had suffered a post"‘traumatic stress disorder because of that birth. Um, the baby was born, beautiful baby boy but I just, it wasn't happening for me as the media would tell me it would, I just didn't fall automatically in love with him.
JENNY BROCKIE: I was watching you listening to these other stories and you were nodding your head in recognition of that, yeah?
CATHIE KNOX: Mm, and yeah, we have a very good support network. We have family, we have a lot of friends around but I didn't dare tell them these deep feelings that I was having and I then became pregnant pretty much straight away. Um, and so in my situation it's all very complex because was it post"‘natal depression, was it antenatal depression with the second pregnancy it's impossible to know.
JENNY BROCKIE: It all sort of merged into one. How bad did it get for you?
CATHIE KNOX: Well, throughout the second pregnancy I was very, very distressed.Um, and in fact it really wasn't until after I'd had the second baby that the whole thing fell apart totally for me.
JENNY BROCKIE: What does that mean? What does falling apart mean?
CATHIE KNOX:I felt incredibly anxious, I guess overwhelming feelings of grief, um, I didn't want to be left alone and just felt totally out of control. But so it was a very "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Were you feeling like that all the time, most of the time?
CATHIE KNOX: All the time. I just wept and wept and just "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you try to get help?
CATHIE KNOX: I didn't tell anybody. I actually kept it "‘ I mean "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: So you wept in private? You wept by yourself?
CATHIE KNOX: Being "‘ I was able to function so I could get up, go out, see my friends, have the babies looking good. I'd go home, sit in a corner and just weep.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Vijay, were you privy to this? Did you understand what Cathie was going through?
DR VIJAY ROACH: No, I didn't understand it at all. And my reaction to it which I now talk about and I talk about very publicly because I think it's important for other men to hear, is it was a very negative one. That I saw my wife with our new child unable to cope, unable to function in the way that she had and I was the man who was angry and who was irritated and critical and unable to see that in fact she was suffering. And even as I say it now I say that with enormous regret and guilt but I think it's important that I do say it to acknowledge that there are others who may be feeling that and I can now look back and know I wasn't a bad person but I was caught up in a situation that was quite terrible.
JENNY BROCKIE: Mm. Vijay, you're an obstetrician, I'm really interested in the fact that as an obstetrician you didn't see what was going on.
DR VIJAY ROACH:I'm not a particularly good obstetrician. No, at that time I think "‘ well that's one of the failures, I think, of the obstetric training scheme is that it doesn't actually teach us a lot about mood disorders in pregnancy and so that had not been a significant part of my training and "‘ but I think that that's part of it. But the other thing was I was simply a husband and I think like the other partners here I was caught up in a circumstance where it was so close you couldn't see it. And as Cathie said, and as was alluded to before, she was hiding it and so therefore if someone hides it whether you're a doctor or whether you're a partner then it's impossible to see it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nicole, we hear a lot about women and post"‘natal depression but do we know how many men suffer from it or a version of it?
DR NICOLE HIGHET, DEPUTY CEO BEYONDBLUE: Certainly there's good research showing high rates of post"‘natal depression in men as well and some researchers estimated that up to 50% of men whose wife or partner has post"‘natal depression also may experience depression themselves. So we can see that depression has far"‘reaching impacts not only on the woman but also potentially, um, her relationship and the impact on the partner is significant and over time that can impact on the baby as well.
JENNY BROCKIE: And do we know what causes it? Why some people suffer so much?
DR NICOLE HIGHET: There's a range of risk factors which have been commonly shown to be identified. Certainly having a history of depression is one of the major risk factors, um, your own experience, expectations, and the birth itself and also becoming pregnant, they can place greater risks. Level of social support, that's another factor which can really impact on people's experience or vulnerability to depression. But of course when we've got issues of stigma, although there might be a lot of support networks, because there is still stigma in the community, particularly although it might be decreasing over time, particularly with post"‘natal depression people often find it very hard to put up their hand and say I'm not coping.
JENNY BROCKIE: Dean, welcome to Insight, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You have a very important story to tell about losing your wife. Let's take a moment to hear that story as you told it to our producer Sky Docherty.
REPORTER: Sky Docherty
When Dean Litis met Louise Schwartz he was instantly attracted to her.
DEAN LITIS: The first thing that struck me about Lou was her naturalness. She had a smile that could light up a room, a really infectious, vivacious personality.
Dean and Louise married in 2004 and fell pregnant almost straight away.
DEAN LITIS: It was a bit of a shock because most of our friends, um, had been trying for ages to fall pregnant and it was basically a first go with us. So it was a mixture of happiness and a bit of trepidation.
Son Sam arrived nine months later. The first weeks after he was born Lou struggled, particularly with breast feeding.
DEAN LITIS:She felt like it should have come naturally to her, um, and the fact that it wasn't meant that she was inadequate in some way.
At six weeks Sam went on to formula but by this time it was clear Lou was depressed even though she was putting on a brave face.
DEAN LITIS:She was completely not herself. It was almost as if she was possessed by someone else. The normal happy, positive Lou had been replaced by someone who was constantly down on themselves.
Lou sort counselling and was medicated with antidepressants by a psychiatrist. She was back to normal about nine months later. She initially didn't want any more children but two years later decided she was ready to try again. The birth of second son Charlie went well. Lou seemed happy. Dean took five weeks off work and had organised a lot of support for her.
DEAN LITIS: Lou was saying things like "Now I know how it feels, how I should have felt with Sam." Then slowly the issues with the breast feeding and the sleep deprivation came back and I noticed that she started ignoring Sam to a large degree. It was as if that possession had taken over her body again.
Lou's depression was taking a toll on Dean.
DEAN LITIS: I remember going to work on a Monday and someone asking me how my weekend was and I broke down in tears, um, just thinking about how hard it had been that weekend, how Lou was seeming "‘ seemingly getting worse. I reached breaking point where I had to resign, um, and go back to my old job. She really wanted to be looked after as a baby herself at that stage. She was constantly telling me that she wasn't "‘ apologising to me for not being able to look after two boys, couldn't understand how other people could "‘ other mothers could do it.
Soon after Lou attempted to take her own life. She was rushed to hospital. A couple of days later she was sent home and assessed as someone who was not at risk of taking her own life.
DEAN LITIS:Towards the end she became quite distant from both boys. She would spend hours just curled up in bed not wanting to come out and not really feeling that she could contribute much to the boys.
Although Lou had up days, she wasn't getting better. At a loss, Dean and Lou decided to admit her into a mother/baby unit. It was here she took her own life.
DEAN LITIS: I go through a whole gamut of emotions. I think the main one at first was anger and I still get angry that she couldn't see her way out of it and that she chose death over her family but I have to keep remembering that it wasn't her, that it was the illness and she would never have done that if she hadn't been that sick. So it's been over a year and a half now and I still have really down times and really "‘ and times when I am still angry at her but "‘ that's been overtaken by just missing her and feeling sorry that she isn't able to see the boys grow up.
JENNY BROCKIE: Dean, thank you very much for joining us. Are you okay?
JENNY BROCKIE: Why did you want to come here tonight and tell that story?
DEAN LITIS: Well, by telling Lou's story it helps one person then it's worth telling. Um, I just wanted to make it clear that post"‘natal depression or any form of depression for that matter is not "‘ is something that you shouldn't be ashamed of. It's "‘ it doesn't make you a bad mother or a bad person, it's an illness and it should be treated like one and there should be support there for not only the person that's suffering from depression but the carers of that person.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah.
DEAN LITIS: Um, and also more importantly I wanted to say that it's not a fatal illness. Um, Lou, was in such a dark place at the time that she couldn't see that but I have no doubt that she would have got better and she would have enjoyed her children again. She was a great mum but she just couldn't see it.
JENNY BROCKIE: How "‘ looking at that, suppose pictures of her, and I spoke to you about this earlier, how do you reconcile that beaming face, that smiling woman with what she was obviously going through?
DEAN LITIS:Yeah, it's really hard. Um, I, I think she was so ashamed of the way that she was feeling that she did try to hide it from everyone, including myself, um, and her friends were completely shocked when, when it happened because she would put on a brave face and even go out to dinner with them on occasion, um, but behind closed doors and even not behind closed doors, inside she was obviously struggling.
JENNY BROCKIE: And this was someone getting help too, I mean this isn't a case where someone's slipped through the cracks and hasn't been identified as having a problem, yeah?
DEAN LITIS:That's right. She'd never had any form of depression before and, um, we got help pretty much straight away after Sam was born, um, and we had psychologists, psychiatrists, family support, a nanny, it just "‘ she was the girl most unlikely to do something like that.
JENNY BROCKIE: Belinda, I know that she contacted your organisation, you run a counselling support organisation for women who suffer or for people who suffer from post"‘natal depression. She contacted you after the birth of the first child, didn't she?
BELINDA HORTON, CEO PANDA: She did.
JENNY BROCKIE: So when you hear this story, when you know this story what do you think could have helped, perhaps?
BELINDA HORTON: Well talking to somebody who actually understands that element of things needing to cease, not just you have this series of symptoms that is post"‘natal depression, it's actually being able to say I feel so horrible that this is what I'm thinking and this is what I'm picturing for my children to be able to tell somebody who's already experienced that and recovered, for example, or somebody who's not going to go over the top with a crisis intervention and can actually provide some comfort.
JENNY BROCKIE: So to see there's a point beyond all this that's better?
BELINDA HORTON: That's right, yeah, definitely.
JENNY BROCKIE: Marie"‘Paule, you're a psychiatrist, you deal with people who suffer from post"‘natal depression and perinatal depression, depression during pregnancy as well, um, some of our Twitterers are asking how do you determine the difference between the normal stresses and strains and feelings of despair one sometimes has when you have a baby and things just seem out of control, and when there's a serious problem with depression, how do you actually assess, you know, when something is a clinical problem and when something is just part of the normal run of having a baby and the difficulties?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN, ST JOHN OF GOD, UNSW: Even as an experienced psychiatrist working in the field for many years, even now it's hard sometimes. I think often what's happening in the stories that I'm hearing is that women can have a good day and then a bad day and that's very confusing because then they think oh maybe it's all in my head. Maybe there's nothing really going on here. So they keep going and they don't seek help as early as they should.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah. Dean, you were nodding your head listening to some of that, what was it that you were identifying with?
DEAN LITIS: Just the up and down. It wasn't a straight line, Lou falling into post"‘natal depression. It was a roller coaster really. It was, um, and I think part of it was her putting on a brave face on some occasions, but there would be times when she thought she was getting better and, um, when the next day she fell into that slump again it compounded things, that she thought oh, okay, I felt good yesterday and now I'm back where I started or even further down. So it is difficult.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah. Um, relationships, we were talking about before about what it does to a relationship, I'd like to explore that a little bit more because I think that's something people at home are going to relate to a bit too. Do you want to talk a little bit about what's happened to your relationships as a result of all of this? Can you talk about that, Rob?
ROBERT ALMOND:Um, it pushes you to the point where on many occasions if we've been arguing, you know, one or the other of us have been on the verge of walking out to the point where we couldn't deal with not so much our boy but couldn't stand the sight of each other anymore.
BROOKE BULLOCK:Because I think we were both trying to tell each other what we were feeling, I think it was just like brick wall. We just were coming from the same angle but we just wasn't listening to each other because we kind of both felt the same way.
JENNY BROCKIE: You two are nodding, yeah?
CHARLES WALE: Absolutely. Many occasions we both wanted to just walk away from the situation but I think for us our caring for each other and for our children has been the tie that's kept it all together but, um "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Is there also something about being a man and wanting to fix it, wanting to just make it "‘ Rob, you're smiling there?
ROBERT ALMOND: That was always something "‘ when the things got their worst I would always say in almost those exact words just give me a chance I can fix it, I'll work harder, I'll do more, I'll do something, I'll fix it and sometimes you're just I'm sick of hearing that, I'll fix it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Dean, you were nodding to about the fix it line, the being a man.
DEAN LITIS: Like Rob I was very much in that camp. Um, Lou would try and communicate to me how she was feeling and I would be constantly trying to suggest a way of fixing it and she would say "I don't want you to try and figure out a way to fix it, I just want you to listen." And I think it's just a typical guy response is okay, there's a problem we have to fix it. And I think I would have, in hindsight, been better just to listen.
JENNY BROCKIE: Marie"‘Paule, I'm interested in what all of this that we've heard about so far, what affect it has on the child?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN: If the depression's allowed to run for too long and if it's too severe it can impact on the bonding between the mother and the infant. Um, and often I've had mothers say to me afterwards I can't remember those first 12 months, I really missed out on the enjoyment that say I've had with the second or third child. What happened then, they can make it up so nothing is irretrievable, that's the important thing but, um, it certainly makes a big impact and I think sometimes we rely on partners and family to take over the care of the infant and they need support in doing that as well.
JENNY BROCKIE: Brooke, you've shared a lot of your story with us tonight. I'm just interested to know how long you did struggle with this depression before you sought help? And what the trigger was for seeking help?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Um, I think it was just wanting to be in control of wanting that need to be a good mother, I think. Like, um, as was said before, I felt like I was born without the mother gene. As much as I loved playing with him I felt like I wasn't able to take care of him every day all day.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what help did you get?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Um, I looked on websites and had a look around and I didn't feel that I was in the desperately needing, you know, emotional counselling or anything like that, I didn't feel I was that extreme, I just felt like I wasn't, I wasn't supposed to be a mum and I, you know, had a look around and I eventually just went to see my doctor and he said look, you can either see counselling or you can take medication, you know, I'd prefer you to take the medication, um, and I tried it and I just "‘ I didn't like it and I felt "‘ didn't feel like myself and I decided that I just wanted to do it by myself and I wanted to take control and I was going to plan out my days and just try and work through it without the medication. I think that kind of triggered me into okay I want to get over this, I'm going to try and do everything I can to do that.
JENNY BROCKIE: And now?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Every day, I mean I have good days and bad days just like everybody else and, um, I just try and make a routine and play with him and enjoy him as much as I can and especially with Rob taking time in enjoying his, you know, learning how to walk and stand up on his own, enjoying that, you know, while it's happening.
JENNY BROCKIE: Susan, what about you?
SUSAN WALE: For me, um, it was eight months ago, the girls were eight months old "‘ the twins were eight months when I sought help from my GP and starting to see the psychologist and I took medication and um "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: And you had a good experience with medication?
SUSAN WALE: Yes, I did. I did, absolutely. I felt like I was able to be in control of what I was doing on a day"‘to"‘day basis, I felt happy, I felt able to connect to my children again, um, which I had experienced but had lost it. Um, I felt like my life was changing and I was able to find a space to cope with the day"‘to"‘day routine of having three little kids.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nicole, the Federal Government's rolling out an $85 million program for screening and treatment of perinatal depression and this term perinatal I should explain to people at home covers pregnancy an after you've had the baby. Um, how will that screening program and treatment program work? How will that 85 million be spent? Is it mostly on screening?
DR NICOLE HIGHET: Part of it is on screening women both antenatally and post"‘natally because I think as we've seen tonight what part of the trick is getting it as soon as possible, um, identifying it early and getting people the support that they need.
JENNY BROCKIE: So there will be a test for people to do?
DR NICOLE HIGHET: It's like a "‘ rather than see it as a test it's more of a, um, short questionnaire where we just ask women a range of questions about various symptoms over the past seven days. Um, and depending on, you know, what that indicates, whether there's a lot of symptoms which may be indicative of post"‘natal depression or depression during pregnancy it might be a you seem to be managing okay or look, we're just going to keep an eye on you, it's a flag that we might, um, ask you those questions again in a couple of weeks just in case they've subsided on their own or in some cases if there's greater scores which might indicate more symptoms we might need to follow up and look at alternative treatments. There's a lot of focus on the physical side of pregnancy and having the baby and often mental health is completely overlooked.
JENNY BROCKIE: Brooke, you mentioned earlier that you were screened for depression twice, once I think when you were 12 weeks pregnant and again a week and a half after the birth. Why wasn't it picked up? You said that you lied?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Yeah, you go into denial. I just "‘ I "‘ the hospital and Noah being in the special care unit when they screened me then I just didn't want to have anything to do with them just because the birth to me was so horrible and I just didn't want to deal "‘ so I just denied and then when I was pregnant everybody was so excited and so happy and I just didn't feel that way and I just "‘ even to them I was lying.
JENNY BROCKIE: So a screening program wouldn't have done any good for you at all?
BROOKE BULLOCK: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: What about you, Erin, you're 24, you were screened twice as well and you suffered from post"‘natal depression, what happened when you were screened?
ERIN LAW: I would probably go as far as saying that I most probably suffered from the perinatal depression as well. I was screened quite early in both pregnancies. I did a short questionnaire, as was spoken about, I don't know whether they're changing it or whether it's the same one but, um, I passed it with flying colours but I were to say that probably part of the reason I did so well was because they caught me when I just found out I was pregnant, I was happy, I was "‘ people around me were happy for me, everything around me was positive, things were going well and then obviously as the novelty sort of wore off and things became harder and throughout my second pregnancy having an 18 month old who suddenly became very spirited became increasingly difficult just to function on a day"‘to"‘day basis but there was no further screening. There was no"‘one there to pick up that things had gotten harder.
JENNY BROCKIE: That's a very interesting point about the timing about in both the pregnancy and after you've had the baby. How bad did your post"‘natal depression get?
ERIN LAW: Um, it, for example, during the pregnancy with my first daughter I "‘ there was one instance where I became so upset I was screaming and crying and punching myself in the stomach because I no longer wanted the baby. I didn't want to be a mother. I was struggling just with functioning as an individual who was pregnant. Um, there were times when my first child was younger where I just couldn't look after her, um, she'd be left to her own devices. I'd provide the bare essentials, she'd be fed, she'd be provided with, you know, clean clothes, we'd go out occasionally but when we were home I pretty much ignored her. I couldn't interact with her. Um, and then after the birth of my second daughter things became so difficult at one point managing the two by myself I had them in the bath one day and, um, my 3"‘year"‘old was being difficult I was trying to wash her hair and I just snapped. The thought crossed my mind that it would be just so much easier if I could just push her under the water. Just stop the screaming, stop the noise, stop the frustration that I was feeling, just something had to stop. Um and that was when I realised that I had a real problem, having those thoughts about your own child.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what did you do then?
ERIN LAW: Pulled her out very, very quickly, lathered in soap, removed her from the situation so I put a stop to that thought process and then rang my mum.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you get help after that?
ERIN LAW:I rang my mum straight after that. She'd been keeping pretty close tabs on me. We'd had conversations about how I was coping and she'd been encouraging me to speak to somebody but as some of the other ladies have said you'd have your good days and you'd have your bad days and I'd have a run of good days and things would be wonderful and I'd think, you know, I'm not very good at being a mum some days, some days I'm just, you know, a bit snappy or a bit angry. I suffered from a lot of anger and frustration towards my children.
JENNY BROCKIE: And now, you're talking about it in the past sense as though it's not something you feel anymore?
ERIN LAW: With the encouragement of my mum after the bath event I actually went and spoke to a GP. A new GP somebody I hadn't spoken to before and it turned out that she was a very supportive and wonderful doctor and she actually gently guided me on to some medication. I was breast feeding at the time so she went through some possible options in terms of ones that wouldn't be affective, hurting my child, um, and I started a course of, um, some antidepressants and, um, felt "‘ within days was feeling like I had a lot more of a handle on my anger and my emotions.
JENNY BROCKIE: But after that whole, you're describing that whole experience, that awful period that you went through, screening, the screening of your condition was not effective?
ERIN LAW:They missed it completely. I was happy Erin there in the doctor's office doing my little 10 question survey on the last week.
JENNY BROCKIE: Marie"‘Paule, I'm interested in what you have to say about this because you help devised this screening initiative. What evidence is there that it's going to pick up what it needs to pick up?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN: Look, the tool itself is a very useful one but it's "‘ the idea is you don't use it on its own. You really use it with good clinical judgment. I think we need to train our health care professionals up to ask all the other questions that are required, particularly about context, about past history, about supports, relationships, um, the quality of the mother's own parenting when she was growing up, how that might impact on her experience, her transition to parenthood and then we take it from there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Vijay, what do you think about this as an obstetrician who himself did not pick up his own wife's post"‘natal "‘
DR VIJAY ROACH: That's because we're talk about in the context we're talking about it as a medical model. We're talking about screening, we're talking about diagnosis. I think we should be talking about all of us who are affected by this as normal people, normal parents and why wasn't I there when my mate fell over? Why wasn't I caring about that individual and being involved in their lives? Why do people have babies in isolation? Why when, you know, you seem to drop out of circulation completely? So I think the solution to this is not $85 million, it's not a screening program, it's a change in the way that we view parents and we view new mothers and new fathers and retaining our "‘ or keeping them involved in our society rather than letting them drop out of it completely.
JENNY BROCKIE: And men talking about it more.
DR VIJAY ROACH: It's essential for men.
JENNY BROCKIE: As well as women talking about it more, yeah?
DR VIJAY ROACH: When a bloke falls over and breaks his leg we go over and say "Are you okay, mate?" But if we know there's a bloke there whose wife is unwell and he's a bit down we stay right away and we're anxious about going and talking to him.So yes, blokes have got to recognise that it's alright to go and say "How are you".
JENNY BROCKIE: I wonder what some of the rest of you think is needed. Fiona, you are a GP and this screening program is going to rely quite heavily on GPs, I mean do you think GPs have a role in this? Do you think they can play a bigger role?
DR FIONA LONG, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: I think there's no question that GPs play a role because GPs are in a situation where they often know the family and know some of the background to start off with and I think the overwhelming message that is coming out of tonight is that you aren't just treating the woman or the man, you are treating the whole family, that this doesn't just affect one person, it has a snowball effect on others and for that reason I think the GP is in that frontline position of, um, doing the initial discussions about what is actually needed, what is some practical things that we can do to help you in this situation.
JENNY BROCKIE: Caroline, you saw a GP and you spoke to PANDA, the support group, what happened next? What helped you in the end?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Um, I did see a GP initially, just to go back a step. Within about a week of being home when I realised that I was horrendously anxious, not functioning, not able to eat, not able to sleep, all those kinds of things and I thought this can't go on, I went to my usual GP and was prescribed the medication I ended up taking for 18 months, um, butwhen I rang PANDA they recommended a GP who was experienced with post"‘natal depression. He confirmed that medication was a good choice for me but he also confirmed that I wouldn't be on it for the rest of my life which was my big fear that once you go on this I'll never get off it. I didn't want to take medication to be a good mother, I didn't want to have to take medication to love my baby so "‘ but he reassured me that that wasn't the case but unfortunately, um, even though I did have a fantastic GP, um, things declined for me not long after I first saw him, probably about two to three weeks and I was admitted to an emergency unit and then put into a mother/baby unit and I spent eight weeks there before I was able to return home.
JENNY BROCKIE: And that helped?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Immensely. When I first went there I went there for three days without Sarah, um, and when they brought her in I was very upset because she just seemed to follow me wherever I went.
JENNY BROCKIE: You didn't want her to be there.
CAROLINE HANCOCK: Which was unfortunate because it was great without her but they were very good. Over time they were able to allow me to get used to being around her and I think that actually happened quicker than I thought it would I enjoy it.
JENNY BROCKIE: And your relationship with her now?
CAROLINE HANCOCK: It's amazing, it's amazing, wouldn't change anything but it did take a while too after I got home to get back to what I thought life should be. Didn't have to be perfect but better than what it was when she first came home.
JENNY BROCKIE: Marie"‘Paule, how many mother/baby units are there in Australia for cases where people really do need that kind of intensive help?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN: There'd be about even or eight mother/baby units. It's really not enough. We've heard about the breadth of the problem tonight and I think a lot of what people said here is about providing a really "‘ a combined approach to the management of the mother and the infant. So we really want to keep the infant with the mother. Even though at times they may not feel that that's what they want and we also want to bring partners in. They've got to be part of the treating team.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how much does it cost to go to one of these units?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN: It's pricey, very pricey.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's really only on option for people with reasonable income?
PROFESSOR MARIE"‘PAULE AUSTIN: If it's a private unit, we have a few small government"‘funded units but again we'd like more of those as well.
JENNY BROCKIE: Brooke, what have you been able to access, any of that?
BROOKE BULLOCK: Well initially I spoke "‘ Noah was home after three weeks of being in special care, the maternal health nurse came the week after that and I had mentioned that I still wasn't feeling anything and she referred me to my GP. Um, and then I went to a different GP who "‘ I said I wasn't feeling myself, I didn't want to come out directly and say, you know, I want to leave, I just want to go and she just said you need to lose some weight, and, you know, I didn't "‘ and from that point "‘
JENNY BROCKIE: Gee, that's helpful, just what you need to hear.
BROOKE BULLOCK:It is. You want to stay in bed, oh you need to exercise and that's fair enough but I didn't feel comfortable then opening up and saying well, you know, it took me a couple of months to regain that sense of okay, I'm going to go and see my GP who I've seen since I was 16 years old and knows my history, even though he's an hour away I'm going to go back to him as somebody I trust to help me and know that, you know, know my history and know me and it took me to somebody who I trusted for me to realise hey, I can do this or, you know, I don't think it should be relied on the maternal health nurse or the hospital system who are already fully, you know, are already busy and try to get you away as quickly as possible, I think it takes you "‘ you need to go to somebody who you trust.
JENNY BROCKIE: We are going to have to wrap up. Dean, you wanted to say something about your boys.
DEAN LITIS:Yeah, I just wanted to say, um, that when Lou took her life I was shattered, I felt like I was a dead man walking basically. I thought it was only a matter of time before the grief drained the life out of me. But it was my boys that really got me through it. Um, they give me so much joy and happiness and they're the best things that ever happened in my life and I just couldn't cope without them. So that's it.
JENNY BROCKIE: And that's a very good, positive note to end on. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Thank you all for sharing your stories tonight. It's been a real privilege to hear them and to listen to what you've had to say. Thank you very much.