Perinatal depression and anxiety are serious mental health problems and are among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide!
Pregnant women are at higher risk for suicidal ideation and behaviours compared to the general population.
Suicide has been identified as one of the major contributors to the global mortality burden and there is a growing concern over the increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour among pregnant women.
Studies in low- and middle-income countries put the rate of maternal death due to suicide at somewhere between 0.65% and 3.55%. In such cases, risk factors include poverty, lack of support, lack of trust in health systems and coexisting mental illnesses.
Suicidal thoughts experienced during pregnancy can continue beyond the initial postpartum period, affecting the well-being of both mother and child.
More about pregnancy and suicidal ideation in our infographic
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently 24.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers in the world (UNHCR 2015).
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Mental health among refugees is increasingly being discussed and researchers acknowledge:
Refugees are a vulnerable people.
We have found that uncertain refugee status is a key factor contributing to mental illness in pregnant women. Women with uncertain refugee status are particularly vulnerable to maternal mental illness. Psychological trauma, associated with political conflict, displacement, violence, loss of loved ones, torture, rape and poverty contribute to poorer general maternal health.
For more information see our Issue Brief and for a quick visual overview see our infographic below.
The importance of parental mental health as a determinant of infant and child outcomes is increasingly acknowledged. Yet, there is limited information regarding paternal mental health during the perinatal period. The aim of this review is to summarise existing clinical research regarding paternal mental health in the perinatal period in various contexts, and its possible impact on infant development.
Men are at increased risk of mental health problems during the transition to fatherhood, as well as during the perinatal period. Paternal mental health during the perinatal period has been shown to impact on their child’s emotional and behavioural development. However, research addressing the needs of fathers with mental illness and the impact of their illness on their infant and family has been limited.
A paradigm shift is required, from a focus on women following childbirth and women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders to a broader family perspective with the focus firmly on parent-infant relationships. This paradigm shift needs to involve greater research into the fathering role and paternal mental illness during the perinatal period, including further studies into risk factors, impact on the family system, and the most appropriate form of intervention and service provision.
The full research review is available on Wiley Online Library
In our resource library, you can find information for future fathers in four different languages
There is growing awareness that HIV/AIDS affected and infected adolescents may be at increased risk of mental health problems and distress. Depression and anxiety are associated with treatment non-compliance, which can have a significant impact on health status.
Moreover, HIV positive adolescents’ support structures can be weakened by challenging home environments and stigma in the community.
The goal of Khuluma is to provide psychosocial support for HIV positive adolescents in South Africa using mobile technology.
Read more about the the Khuluma model on the Mental Health Innovation Network pages.
Maternal depression has a number of negative consequences for the woman herself.
These include loss of functioning (inability to perform everyday tasks or social roles), loss of interest in self-care and child care, behaviour that affects other health conditions (for example, poor adherence to antiretroviral treatment for HIV), and risk of suicide or self-harm.
A global systematic review reports that between 5 per cent and 14 per cent of women report suicide ideation during pregnancy or the postnatal period (Lindahl, Pearson and Colpe, 2005). Most suicides happen in the postnatal period (Gentile, 2011) and the presence of perinatal depression predicts suicide (Lindahl, Pearson and Colpe, 2005). Suicide now surpasses maternal mortality as the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 years, globally (Petroni, Patel and Patton, 2015).
In this installment of the Health & Education Advice & Resource Team’s (HEART) Reading Pack series, professor Crick Lund summarizes the state of knowledge about maternal depression across cultures.
Screening is the entry point to mental health care.
We recently produced an advisory for primary level screening of mothers for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and behaviour in South Africa.
When health providers are not necessarily skilled in other forms of detection and when disorders are not clinically obvious, brief screening is a critical step towards providing mental health support for vulnerable women.
Read the recommendations on our website.
Another recent study found that women who underwent regular maternal depression screening are more likely to avail of mental healthcare services before, during and after pregnancy.
Read this related article Maternal Depression Screening Is Causing More Women To Avail Of Mental Healthcare Services
in the Parent Herald
On the occasion of the first International Fathers Mental Health Day, 20 June, Wessel Van Den Berg (Sonke Gender Justice) reflects on celebrating the unpaid care work mothers do, and how to encourage the dads who are already sharing the care.
“The recently released 2015 General Household Survey revealed a mixed bag for our children. There was a commendable increase in the number of five-year-olds enrolled in school, but at home the picture isn’t so rosy.
According to the survey, 63% of fathers do not live at home with their biological children. This number has remained more or less the same for the past decade. The fact is that there is a massive gap in father’s presence in children’s lives. And this is a problem.
The most obvious is that this may indicate less financial support provided by fathers to families. But there’s another reason fathers should be encouraged to be present and active in their children’s lives. It allows women and girls to achieve their full potential. That’s right: women and girls.”
Psychological trauma, associated with political conflict, displacement, violence, loss of loved ones, torture, rape, dispossession and poverty contribute to poorer general maternal health. Discrimination and xenophobia can further exacerbate existing traumas and mental anguish. Cultural norms surrounding pregnancy and the lack of family and other support structures at this vulnerable time contributes to social isolation, exclusion and psychological distress.
“Loneliness, loss of identity, poverty and trauma are the main stressors that we see. Many refugee women have no one to talk to, and pregnancy makes them more vulnerable.” Charlotte Mande-Ilunga, counsellor PMHP
The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) has found that refugee status is a key factor contributing to mental illness in pregnant women.
Read more on our findings in this Issue Brief.
According to the latest report by The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) a record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, many of them fleeing wars only to face walls, tougher laws and xenophobia as they reach borders.
In South Africa more than a million asylum seekers are waiting for their applications to be processed at the end of 2015 – the highest number in the world.