In Pakistan, approximately 1 in 4 women suffer from depression during pregnancy or during the postnatal period. This affects not only the mother but everyone around her—her health whilst pregnant, her relationship with herself, her partner, family and also her ability to bond with her child. As our mental health program continues to grow and expand, we have started to recognise and identify the issues which are prevalent in these communities.
Post-natal depression and maternal mental health are issues that affect mothers everywhere, from all backgrounds. There is also a lot of stigma associated with these issues and a mother feels a lot of shame and guilt for feeling low at a time when she has been ‘blessed with a baby’. The social and cultural pressures of having a child and behaving in a certain way tends to cause a lot of depression and anxiety for a new mother. She starts to question her role as a mother, feeling a lot of negative thoughts towards herself and those around her.
The Thinking Healthy Program is a holistic intervention which aims at improving the overall health of both the mother, her child and those around her. It targets topics such as interpersonal relationships, nutrition, self-care , child-bonding and equips a new mother with the coping strategies and skills to improve both her physical health as well as her emotional wellbeing. We partnered up with the Human Development & Research Foundation (HDRF) to bring this training to Sindh and train our community health workers and lay counsellors in this area so they are better able to identify and support mothers in the community who are suffering from mental health issues or having trouble coping.
Capacity building and training continues to be an area the British Asian Trust recognises and works on bringing relevant training to improve the quality of services being provided. It is also an example of a collaborative approach where members of Sehat Kahani, IRD (Interactive Research & Development) , HDRF and Karwan-e-Hayat all came together to participate in this training. We truly believe different organisations coming together-collaborating, brainstorming and giving feedback creates the best impact and quality of care.
Our aim is to integrate mental health support and services in to the health care system; providing mothers with a more integrative and holistic approach of maternal care. Nurses, doctors and other health care providers should be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety and be sensitive to these issues, being able to integrate it into their treatment plan. There should be counsellors and mental health professionals accessible to anyone who needs it and hopefully this is a step forward in spreading awareness about maternal mental health and the support which can be given.
Sanaa Ahmad, Mental Health Manager - British Asian Trust