A recent survey by the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters (Ensi- ja turvakotien liitto) has shed light on the significant challenges facing Finnish families with infants, highlighting a concerning gap in the support available to them. Over half of the respondents in the "How are you doing?" online survey reported difficulty in accessing the help they need, despite experiencing a range of issues from loneliness and mental health challenges to coping with the demands of parenthood.
The survey, conducted in partnership with the Finnish Association for Perinatal Mental Health (Suomen Perinataalimielenterveys ry), gathered responses from 844 parents of infants under one year old and expectant parents. It was available on the Federation's website and promoted through social media and Sanoma media services for four weeks in March 2023.
- Over half of the families expressed a need for professional help in addition to support from loved ones, with a third of those needing help not receiving it.
- Common symptoms among parents include stress, exhaustion, sleep-related issues, loneliness, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- The burden of parental expectations, both external and self-imposed, along with financial strains, are major contributing factors to parental exhaustion.
- Many parents hesitate to discuss their concerns with professionals, leading to a sense of isolation and insufficient support.
Jonna Lehikoinen from the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters emphasizes the gravity of the situation. “Parents are often left alone with their worries. There’s a need for more accessible information about various support services and more proactive offering of help to parents during pregnancy,” she says.
Tanja Henttonen, a special advisor at the Federation, points out that perinatal mental health issues are usually treatable when early support is provided. “In addition to professional support, creating low-threshold meeting places for families with infants is essential for reducing loneliness and preventing mental health issues,” she adds.
The Federation, along with its 17 member associations, annually assists over 23,000 families in distress. In 2023, support services ranged from in-house assistance in ten first homes to open services, low-threshold meeting spots, and chat support for families with infants.
This survey highlights the urgent need for more comprehensive and accessible support for families during the critical perinatal period. It underscores the importance of early intervention, community support, and the need for more compassionate and encouraging discourse around parenthood and family life in Finland.