Sunyani, Aug. 29, GNA – Safe motherhood is often glorified in the Ghanaian society and this makes the pregnant woman or mother feel guilty about experiencing negative emotions. Maternal mental health is a public health priority due to its impact on both maternal and child health.
What is it?
Although the impact of maternal mental health on child development starts from conception, research in the area of antenatal mental health has gained momentum only in recent years.
Once considered a time of emotional well-being, and “protecting” women against psychiatric disorders, it is now well established that several psychiatric disorders are common during pregnancy, with depression being the most widespread.
Risk factors for poor mental health during pregnancy, according to health experts, include; personal or family history of psychiatric illness or substance abuse, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or coercion, social adversity and coincidental adverse life events.
Maternal mental illness or mental health in general, according to medicine is a chronic disorder diagnosed most often by a psychiatrist, of a behavioural or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life.
Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode. Many disorders have been described, with signs and symptoms that vary widely between specific disorders.
Remote causes of mental disorders are often unclear. Theories may incorporate findings from a range of fields.
Maternal mental disorders are usually defined by a combination of how a person behaves, feels, perceive or thinks and this may be associated with particular regions or functions of the brain, often in a social context.
It is believed that cultural and religious beliefs, as well as social norms, should be taken into account when making diagnosis.
Services are based in psychiatric hospitals or in the community, and assessments are carried out by psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers, using various methods but often relying on observation and questioning.
Treatments are also provided by various mental health professionals and psychotherapy and psychiatric medication are two major treatment options.
Other treatments include; social interventions, peer support and self-help while in a minority of cases there might be involuntary detention or treatment. Prevention programmes have been shown to reduce depression.
According to psychiatrists and historians, common maternal mental disorders in Ghana include; depression, dementia and schizophrenia.
Stigma and discrimination could also add to the suffering and disability associated with mental disorders, leading to various social movements attempting to increase understanding and challenge of social exclusion.
Maternal mental health problems could cover a broad range of disorders, but the common characteristic is that they all affect the affected person’s personality, thought processes or social interactions.
They could be difficult to clearly diagnose, unlike physical illnesses.
Sometimes clinical history, family history and outlook are similar among a group of people with mental disorders and in these situations; their condition could be defined as a specific disorder syndrome.
Although the symptoms of a disorder may affect any part of the body, the electrical events that produce the symptoms occur in the brain.Societal myth surrounding maternal disorders is a huge challenge that impedes treatment of patients.
According to Mr. Joseph Yere, the Brong-Ahafo Regional Mental Health Coordinator, maternal mental health situation in the region is soaring.
He told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview that the region recorded 1,526 maternal mental health cases in the region from January to June, 2018. Marital problems are major causes of depression, which recorded 269 cases.
Mr. Yere said maternal mental health problems remained a major health challenge and required concerted efforts to tackle.
Globally, he said, 10 per cent of pregnant women and 13 per cent of women who have given birth experienced mental disorders primarily due to depression.
In addition, about 20 per cent of mothers in developing countries experienced clinical depression after child birth, thus impeding the holistic upbringing and development of children.
Depression, Mr. Yere said, caused enormous suffering and disability as well as reduced response to child health, adding that though cases of psychosis were much less in the region, it remained the contributory factor to suicides.
But, in Brong-Ahafo Region, an opportunity has been created to support and treat women and pregnant mothers with mental disorders.
Thanks to MIHOSO International Foundation and BasicNeeds Ghana, health focused Non-Governmental Organisations are implementing a two-year maternal mental health project in parts of the region.
Titled, “Enhancing maternal mental health of pregnant women and mothers and their children to realise maternal and child health in Brong-Ahafo”, the project is being funded by the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID).
It is being implemented in: Sunyani, Wenchi, Techiman, Atebubu-Amantin, Kintampo North, Nkoarnza South, Berekum and Tano North Municipalities, as well as Sunyani West, Pru, Sene West, Banda, Jaman North, Tain, Techiman North and Nkoranza North Districts.
Outcomes and Conclusion
In an interview with the GNA, Dr Gabriel Gbiel Benarkuu, the Chief Executive Officer of MIHOSO, said the project is expected to reach out to 180 communities, 3,590 pregnant women/mothers aged between 20 to 40 years and children below two years.
The project seeks to contribute to improved maternal health and livelihoods outcomes among poor and vulnerable women and girls, through enhancing the quality and accessibility of maternal mental health services.
This, Dr Benarkuu National President of the Coalition of NGOs in Health, explained was in combination with behavioural change communication and income generation activities.
He said the project would yield useful outcomes depending on the commitment of the various mental health officers and appealed to traditional authorities in the beneficiary communities to also provide their support.