Reducing stigma

Clinical considerations

As healthcare professionals, reflecting on the care and support provided to new parents can help us think about different ways to improve our practice and reduce disclosure stigma. We can identify ways that can help new parents feel more comfortable with disclosing their experiences. Common barriers to supporting people with perinatal mental illness (PMI) include:

  • Confidence in identifying and supporting with stress, anxiety and depression

  • Incomplete/lack of knowledge or insufficient training in perinatal mental illness

  • Personal attitudes towards those experiencing perinatal mental illness

  • Time pressures which limit the amount of time spent with new parents

Healthcare professionals are in a unique position to identify and assess risk factors, which is fundamental to the early identification of PMI. Furthermore, healthcare professionals also need to ensure that they are proving a supportive, non-judgemental and open environment that can facilitate disclosure as this is fundamental to providing appropriate support to families.

Social considerations

As well considering the manner in which we approach parents during clinical practice, we can also reflect on how we think, feel and talk about perinatal metal illness and thus reduce the impact of social stigma:

  • Watching for inaccurate representations or negative judgements

  • Careful attention to use of language

  • Reframing stigma as a social injustice and not just as a health problem

  • Advocating fair representation and treatment

  • Share information with colleagues and public to challenge stigma

  • Facilitate effective communication between support services

  • Understanding the role and impact of attitudes within the family and social networks

By creating a respectful and non-judgemental environment, we can also support parents to recognise and challenge their self-stigma. This can be done by providing reassurance, validation and acknowledging their experiences and perception.

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Guidance for Healthcare Professionals Working with Families in the Perinatal Period

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