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Making effective referrals

Strategies and resources to help you address your clients’ barriers to disclosure and help-seeking. ​

Anxiety and depression affect up to one in five women and one in ten men in the perinatal period. Many struggle for weeks or months before seeking help, while others never get treatment.

Even after a health professional has identified an issue and offered referrals, many people still don’t get the support they need. How does this happen, and what can you do to help?

Barriers to help seeking

The barriers to new and expecting parents getting mental health support are varied. Some barriers are internal, while others are external, including those that arise from limitations within the health system or in health professional practices.

“My family noticed that things didn’t seem right, a, but I was too afraid that if I told anyone my horrible scary thoughts they would take my daughter away.”

On the PANDA National Helpline, callers often disclose feelings of shame, self-blame and fear of judgement or child removal. Others have little understanding of mental illness, treatment options or the health system. For some, cultural or family attitudes towards mental health and help-seeking can be a barrier.

“'It looks like you’ve got a bit of postnatal depression,’ the nurse said. ‘You should probably go and see someone.’ And that was it. No suggestion of who to see or talk to, no follow up, no further discussion. I was too tired and overwhelmed to do anything about it and I didn’t tell anyone.”

Mental health screening works best when there are clear pathways for management, treatment and follow-up (Milgrom & Gemmill, 2014). However, practice in following up screening results or other mental health disclosures varies widely.

The information below will provide strategies and practical tools to help you make effective referrals and ensure vulnerable clients get the help they need.

Helpful Information

Encouraging disclosure of perinatal anxiety and depression
Read More

Practical tools to help you make effective referrals




Supporting choice


Addressing barriers


Coaching to support referral


Follow up and share information


Referring to PANDA


Making effective referrals: Health professional tip sheet
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Mental health checklist

How are you going?

Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be reason to seek help.

Checklist for

Expecting Mums
Expecting Dads and Non-birth Parents
New Mums
New Dads and Non-birth Parents
Partners and Carers

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