COPE – Mental Health Support For Parents

Starting a family can be one of the most exciting and joyful times of life – but the journey to parenthood and beyond can present a variety of challenges, too. Left untreated, new parents can feel isolated and out of control. So why don’t we talk about this more often?

We recently chatted with Dr. Nicole Highet, founder of COPE. Mental health resources for expectant and new parents are just one of the areas this incredible organisation is determined to make a difference in. As a Doctor of Psychology specialising in perinatal mental health over the past 20+ years, Dr. Highet is committed to empowering new and expectant parents as they navigate the ups and downs of this unique stage of life.

Read on to discover more about COPE and how their vision is helping parents across Australia.

What is COPE?

Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) is a not-for-profit organisation devoted to reducing the impacts of emotional and mental health problems in the pre and postnatal periods.

Coming from her role as former Deputy CEO of Beyond Blue and with a particular focus on perinatal mental health, Dr. Highet established COPE in 2013 with a vision to raise awareness about and reduce the stigma of the mental health challenges that so often accompany early parenthood.

COPE has the following goals:

  • Raise awareness and understanding, so conditions are identified early.
  • Stop the current stigma that exists, so people feel supported to speak up and seek help early.
  • Inform and educate by providing high quality, evidence-based information to empower people and guide them to care.
  • Equip health professionals with knowledge, skills and confidence so that they can provide safe and effective care.
  • Work with leading experts and support world-leading research to enhance practice and to inform policy and services.
  • Work with consumers and partners to provide a voice to advocate for the needs of women, men and their families in the perinatal period.

What does perinatal mental health mean?

The perinatal period refers to the period from conception to the first year following the birth of a baby. We asked Dr. Highet about the significance of this time when it comes to mental health.

“We know that mental health problems are most likely to occur at this stage of life. And this is why it’s so important that we as a community have more information and better education around the range of different challenges so that we’re better able to inform and support individuals going through that experience.”

What are some of the challenges of the perinatal period?

The perinatal stage can present a variety of different challenges for individuals – and not everyone will have the same struggles. But every experience is valid, and no one should struggle alone. We asked Dr. Highet about the most common issues identified in the perinatal period.

“Different challenges can arise for different people – from infertility to birth trauma and issues with breastfeeding, anxiety and depression. But the most common big issue is people feel that they’re not aware or informed about these things. They didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t know where to get information from, and as a result, it made them feel more alone and made them feel like they were failing. So this is why it’s so important we really raise the profile of all these different issues and start breaking down that unrealistic expectation that this is (always) going to be a wonderful experience.”

What perinatal mental health help is available to parents?

COPE provides a range of resources related to each stage of the perinatal period. These include:

  • Planning a family – including support for coping with infertility and pregnancy loss.
  • Expecting a baby – including resources for taking care of yourself physically, as well as identifying and managing antenatal anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions during pregnancy.
  • Preparing for birth – including resources dealing with traumatic birth and the first days post-birth.
  • New parents – including resources for adjusting to new parenthood, breastfeeding, bonding with baby, caring for yourself, and postnatal mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

These resources are designed to be inclusive and address the needs of mums, dads and LGBTQI families.

Accessing the e-COPE Directory

The e-COPE directory is an invaluable resource for new and expectant parents across Australia. The directory includes services and professionals that have a special focus on emotional and mental health in pregnancy and following the birth of a baby.

Ready to COPE

Ready to COPE is a newsletter providing useful information and resources that are tailored to your stage of the perinatal journey. Written by Dr. Highet and underpinned by the Australian National Clinical Guideline, you know it is evidence-based and trustworthy. You can sign up here.

About the COPE and Bubba Organics partnership

At Bubba Organics, we understand that support is crucial in every stage of parenthood. We’re proud to partner with COPE to assist with raising awareness of the challenges that often arise on the parenting journey. No parent should have to face those challenges in isolation. We want to ensure our community understands that there is help available – and providing access to COPE’s quality information, excellent resources and pathways to care is so important.

Dr. Highet had this to say about the partnership.

“We’re always keen to work in partnership with organisations who are showing a commitment to the emotional health and wellbeing of expectant and new parents. Not to mention, we also think the products of Bubba Organics are gorgeous! We want to make sure that parents are empowered with quality information and resources all the way through their journey. There are so many things that can come up that we don’t expect and are not prepared for.”

If you’d like to hear our entire interview with Dr. Nicole Highet, it’s available to watch via the Bubba Organics Instagram account.