Tackling maternal depression

Depression is forecast to be the world’s deadliest condition in five years, our contributor WONDERFUL SAMSON writes.

Giving birth to the first child brought the blues rather than joy to Rebecca. Today as she opens up on this, she prefers her name concealed.

A week after giving birth Rebecca’s whole world took an instant change. She felt she was not herself, she says. She started facing sleepless nights and during day time, she could lock herself in her room and cry. The reason, she says, was her baby.

She felt her baby was taking up all her time that she could not look after herself. Eventually she started to see her own baby as a burden and even thought of not breastfeeding.

“The feeling was getting worse. I thought of taking my own life. I just couldn’t cope. My bond with my baby was just not there,” says Rebecca.

Little did Rebecca know that she was suffering from serious depression until she decided to talk to a trusted friend who helped her regain a clear state of mind.

Today she speaks against maternal depression, urging people to be aware of its severity. “It can affect anyone. Generally depression needs a big awareness campaign.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression will become the world’s deadliest disease in five years time.

The fact that depression is also reported being prevalent in low income countries is a distressing signal to Malawians.

Unfortunately, the deadliness of depression among many Malawians remains less recognised or perhaps underestimated. You are unlikely to be excused or to get sympathy for being depressed.

Dr Chiwoza Bandawe, a clinical psychologist at College of Medicine in Malawi, states: “Over 300 million people worldwide are clinically depressed and that’s a serious health problem.

“In our country, we are still registering increasing numbers of people clinically depressed. Suicide cases are rising.

“This is a growing concern and people must be made aware,” he says.

In the country, maternal depression is a big topic of research and discussion.

A study by Dr Robert Stewart, Dr. Genesis Chowe, Dr Eric Umar, Dr Mwai Ngo’ma, and Dr Kazione Kulisewa is underway to figure out the causes and consequences of maternal depression.

Says Stewart: “Previous research we have done on maternal depression shows that in pregnancy, there are 10 percent of women with significant maternal depression and among mothers of young children attending child health clinic they’re about 13 percent with significant depression.

“There are others with mild depressive and anxious symptoms as well.”

The danger of maternal depression, Dr Stewart says, is that not only the mother is affected, but also the unborn child and the infant child.

This is why Stewart and his colleagues believe extra efforts must be made to understand and halt maternal depression which is believed to be caused by stress.

The UK Medical Research Council is bankrolling the five-year research project through the University of Edinburg.

The country must prepare to tackle depression before its citizens are thrown into rehabs instead of schools and offices.

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