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Health Minister Greg Hunt announces $26 million to tackle mental health of mums and dads

Health Minister Greg Hunt has today announced $26 million to better protect the mental health of expecting and new parents as he hosts a national roundtable on stillbirth prevention in Canberra.

The $26 million for peri-natal depression will be available as grants to mental health and parent support organisations such as Sands, PANDA and BeyondBlue to develop and deliver innovative programs to bolster the mental health of parents.

Dedicated grants rounds will be available for perinatal mental health support, perinatal loss, bereavement peer support and perinatal mental health promotion and training.

Sands CEO Jackie Mead said she welcomed the announcement of the new grant program, saying that this investment in perinatal mental health and wellbeing programs will allow services like Sands to provide further support to more of the 1700 families whose babies will be stillborn before 2019 is through as well as the many thousands who've already experienced the tragedy of going home from the hospital without their baby.

"The future plans and expectations of parents are devastated by the loss of a baby, and often families will experience pre or postnatal depression and anxiety, often resulting in lifelong impact to their wellbeing. Good support and treatment is critical to helping those parents feel less alone and more able to cope with the terrible circumstances they find themselves in," said Ms Mead.

"Bereaved parents need access to ongoing suppport - we know those support needs don't end when they walk out of the hospital doors," she said. "We're very keen to implement programs that will ease the transition between hospital and home for bereaved parents, and to expand services to better support dads, too."

Making bereaved parents’ voices count at the Stillbirth Roundtable

On Tuesday 12 February the Government will convene a round table to address the rate of stillbirth in Australia, following recommendations made in the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education’s 2018 report.

In collaboration with clinicians, researchers and advocacy groups, the round table work to develop a National Action Plan to set funding priorities and decide how those recommendations will be implemented.

Sands Australia CEO, Ms Jackie Mead, says it’s crucial the voices of those who’ve actually experienced stillbirth are considered when decisions about the future of education, counselling, research and clinical care are being made.

“There’s no doubt that research to minimise preventable stillbirth is paramount, but we must not forget to address the needs of the 143 families whose babies will be stillborn as each month of 2019 passes as well as the many thousands who’ve already experienced the tragedy of going home from the hospital without their baby,” said Ms Mead.

“Significant investment is required to support bereaved parents who are experiencing stillbirth now.”

In a recent survey of over 1000 parents who’ve experienced stillbirth, Sands found that respondents overwhelmingly identified grief education, acute bereavement care and practical assistance returning to ‘normal’ life as the key priorities that would make a difference to their experience.

Sands currently provides training and professional development opportunities to health care workers in the principles of best practice bereavement care in maternity settings, but Ms Mead says we need to raise the bar once more.

“We know that bereaved parents support needs don’t end when they walk out of the hospital doors,” said Ms Mead. “They’re ongoing – sometimes for a very long time and there is currently a real gap in services bridging that hospital to home divide.”

One of the major milestones for which bereaved parents seek Sands’ support is returning to work after the death of their baby.

“There is a real opportunity for Sands to provide parents and their employers with greater support when returning to work through the provision of workplace education and support programs.”

"At work I needed help communicating to colleagues and clients on how to ‘be’ around me and how to talk to me,” said one respondent, echoing calls from more than half of the total number of respondents for more flexible work practices.

“Whilst the statutory right to equal leave provisions for parents affected by stillbirth is crucial, it’s not just how much time they are able to take off work that makes a difference but the work practices and culture that support their eventual return to the workplace,” said Ms Mead.

Melbourne mum, Margaret Polacska, describes returning to work after the death of her baby son, Noah, as “difficult”.

“Although my manager and colleagues were very supportive, facing people around my workplace who had known I was pregnant and didn’t know my baby had died caused me great anxiety. I knew I would be potentially asked how my baby was.”

Margaret said her employer’s willingness to provide her as much flexibility as possible made a huge difference in reducing her stress.

“For example, focusing on the task at hand at times was almost impossible.” she said. “I had to run a writing workshop a few weeks after returning to work and my brain was unable to think more than 5 minutes ahead. It was extremely challenging to do tasks that previously were second nature. I needed to adapt to take this into account and my employer’s expectations therefore had to adapt too.”

Recognition of the long-term impact Noah’s death would have on Margaret’s life has been an important deciding factor in her employment choices as time has gone on, too.

“There’s no time limit on grief,” she said. “Each year, for example, I take leave on the day of the anniversary of when my son was stillborn. It’s just as important for workplaces to recognise that bereaved parents require time off work for milestone days even years later, because these days are so emotional.”

All you need is love this Valentine's Day

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This February we invite you to participate in a special act of love for your baby, or a bereaved parent you know, by naming a special Valentine’s Day recipe in their honour.

This gift is one that will truly keep on giving as all money raised through the sale of our chocolate shortbread heart cookie recipes will help Sands deliver our peer support services to parents who are grieving the loss of a much-wanted pregnancy or dearly loved baby.

Each day our volunteers perform countless small but mighty acts of love to ensure each bereaved parent who comes to Sands is met with empathy and understanding. Your small act today will help a fellow mum or dad know they are not alone.

With your donation of $25 or more during February you’ll receive our beautiful Valentine’s Day recipe keepsake by email to print or distribute as you wish.
Visit https://sands-australia.giveeasy.org/stir-in-the-love-this-valentines-day to receive your personalised recipe.

Valentine's Day recipes are available until Thursday 28 February. Don't miss out!

Brisbane-based training opportunity for future Sands volunteer parent supporters!

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Brisbane-based training opportunity for future Sands volunteer parent supporters!

We're running training in our New Farm office on Saturday, 23rd March for bereaved parents interested in providing phone support.

Our volunteer parent supporters are the lifeblood of Sands. They provide crucial one-on-one phone support (via an app on their phones) to other bereaved parents who reach out to talk to someone who understands what they are going through.

What does it take to become a parent supporter? There's no magic formula or qualification, but rather we're looking for a unique set of qualities (empathy, compassion) combined with lived experience to ensure that our services are available 24/7 to those who need them.

If you think you've got what we are looking for, or know someone who does, we would love to hear from you. 

For more information:

Role description

To apply:

Please complete an Expression of Interest.

* If you have applied previously but weren’t able to attend but you are available for this training, please email our Services Coordinator, Shannon directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.