Australia’s first Centre for Perinatal Excellence (COPE), spearheaded by Dr. Nicole Highet (former Deputy CEO of beyondblue) has launched today to help parents-to-be and new parents with the huge number of issues they face.

Disturbing new COPE research reveals that from a sample of 1021 women who had pre/postnatal depression or anxiety, 74% revealed they did NOT seek help until they simply ‘could not cope anymore’, 52% described themselves ‘as a failure as a mother’, and 63% said their ‘feelings of guilt were still with them’ years later.

There has never been anything like COPE before. The unique not-for-profit has been established to support parents-to-be and new parents with the massive number of challenges and emotional/mental health issues they may face.

Dr. Nicole Highet says “Everyone has good and bad days as a parent. Mothers should absolutely never be made to feel they are bad or incompetent. We need to see the words ‘blame’ and ‘shame’ wiped out of the language. Too many people fear speaking out and being judged.”

Statistics show 96,000 Australian mothers AND fathers face depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the first year of birth. Up to 10% of women (1 in 10) will experience depression during pregnancy. 1 in 7 women will get postnatal depression. 1 in 200 women will get Bi-Polar Disorder in pregnancy. 1 in 1,000 women will get post-partum psychosis – a hugely disturbing disorder where people cannot even distinguish what is real.

Dr. Highet said, “COPE is a friend and a support for new parents all the way through their journey. We are NOT simply another postnatal depression or mental health charity. We are about keeping motherhood and fatherhood real: trying to help people have realistic expectations and access the support and advice they need. Parenting isn’t like the TV ads – but too often people think it is – or is going to be.”

To support parents and encourage them to seek help early, it is also vital we remove the pressure and expectations surrounding motherhood, which can contribute to denial and feelings of failure. We need to create a culture ‘that is about being real and supporting one another’”.

To do this, COPE has developed an extensive website www.cope.org.au for women, men, families and health professionals. It is a detailed “one stop shop” to give new parents and parents-to-be critical information about many issues at each stage of the journey to parenthood.

Becoming a parent brings many, many challenges – but sometimes we can feel like we are the only ones finding it difficult to cope.

Having a baby can be one of the most challenging times in a woman’s, and a man’s life. It represents a time where we are entering a new world, where our outlook and life can change significantly. Often we might find that things were not quite as we expected, and we never knew any differently, because people don’t talk about the real highs and lows of becoming a parent.

“Emotional and mental health conditions can destroy marriages and damage childhoods forever – and affect the health and wellbeing of future generations. The financial drain is enormous. The social impact is huge. By taking action, the outcomes will be cost savings, happier families, improved learning and more effective treatments and services,” said Dr. Highet.

“The time has come for perinatal emotional and mental health issues to be voiced and recognised. We want to see people talking openly about their struggles and getting support – not worrying about what others might think or suffering alone.”

You can learn more and get involved today by ‘liking’ them on Facebook and following them on Twitter where they will keep you connected with their latest launch details and activities, and be part of a growing community.

WATCH Dr Nicole Highet speak to Jessica Rowe and Ita Buttrose about COPE on Studio 10 here.

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