First ever Maternal Mental Health & Mental Health First Aid Project to be established in Ghana.

Good moments fellow Ghanaians especially practitioners in the Health sector and especially mental health practitioners for this great nation Ghana. After 2012 since the passage of the Mental Health act ,act 846 2012 we have witnessed great initiatives from Civil Society Organizations and great individuals as players in mental health care service delivery. I Happened to be a professional of mental health in Ghana but upon several observations and critical look at the current state of care, mental health conditions accounts for 10.1% of our entire population and 1 out of every 4 persons is likely to develop mental illness in their live time. Since the entire generation is prone to getting mental illness some critical areas that have to looked at and worked on to address some these challenges these are Maternal Mental Health & Mental Health First Aid .The Maternal Mental Health & Mental Health First Aid Project is first of its kind in Ghana and in the west African sub region that will provide training for professionals, provide education and care for mothers and the general population, conduct research, organize workshops and provide a platform for all to contribute to the development of these two areas of our mental health care.

Let’s look in perspective what maternal mental health is.
Maternal mental health
Worldwide, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this is even higher, i.e. 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after child birth. In severe cases mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may even commit suicide. In addition, the affected mothers cannot function properly. As a result, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected as well. Maternal mental disorders are treatable. Effective interventions can be delivered even by well-trained non-specialist health providers.
The Project’s objectives regarding maternal mental health are:
To reinforce advocacy and provide global leadership for the mental health of the mothers;
To provide support to the member states on evidence based, cost effective, and human rights oriented mental health and social care services in community-based settings for early identification and management of maternal mental disorders;
To provide strategies for promotion of psychosocial well-being, prevention and promotion of mental disorders of mothers during pregnancy and after delivery;
To support the integration of the programmes with maternal and child health initiatives, reproductive health programmes and mainstream them with gender sensitive, and equity and human rights oriented strategies of WHO;
To strengthen information systems, evidence and research relevant to mental health of mothers.
Mental health of the mothers
A recent meta-analysis showed that about 20 % of mothers in developing countries experience clinical depression after childbirth. This is much higher than the previous figures on prevalence coming mostly from high income countries. Suicide is an important cause of death among pregnant and post- partum women. Psychosis is much less common but may also lead to suicide and in some cases even harming the newborn. Depression causes enormous suffering and disability and reduced response to child’s need. Evidence indicates that treating the depression of mothers leads to improved growth and development of the newborn and reduces the likelihood of diarrhoea and malnutrition among them.
Globally maternal mental health problems are considered as a major public health challenge. Though maternal mortality still lies at the heart of maternal health indicators; for the post 2015 agenda for development goals, WHO is considering Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and proposing Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) related indicators as well. This implies stronger focus on mental health conditions in the integrated delivery of services for maternal and child health. The need is not just felt in high income countries. In fact, some academic and public health institutions in low and middle income countries have already initiated integrated maternal mental health programmes. These have been low cost interventions with the involvement of non-specialized or community health providers. Impact has been demonstrated not only on mothers but also on growth and development of children.
Who is at risk of these disorders?
Virtually all women can develop mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery, but poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), emergency and conflict situations, natural disasters, and low social support generally increase risks for specific disorders.
Effects of maternal mental disorders after birth on the mother and the infant
After the birth, the mother with depression suffers a lot and may fail to adequately eat, bathe or care for herself in other ways. This may increase the risks of ill health. The risk of suicide is also a consideration, and in psychotic illnesses, the risk of infanticide, though rare, must be taken into consideration.
Very young infants can be affected by and are highly sensitive to the environment and the quality of care, and are likely to be affected by mothers with mental disorders as well. Prolonged or severe mental illness hampers the mother-infant attachment, breastfeeding and infant care.
What to do?
Maternal mental health can be integrated into general health care including women’s health, maternal and child health care, reproductive health care and other relevant services.
Identification and management of maternal mental disorders by non-specialized health providers
The mental health Gap Intervention Guide provides guidelines about identification and management of mental disorders by non-specialized mental health providers including in pregnant and postpartum mothers.

Aslo ,let’s look into perspective Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is a training program that teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. Like traditional first aid, Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose mental health or substance use conditions. Instead, the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves. While first aid for physical health crises is a familiar notion in developed countries, conventional first aid training has not generally incorporated mental health problems.
Mental health problems are common in the community, so members of the public are likely to have close contact with people affected. However, many people are not well informed about how to recognize mental health problems, how to provide support and what are the best treatments and services available. Furthermore, many people developing mental disorders do not get professional help or delay getting professional help. Someone in their social network who is informed about the options available for professional help can assist the person to get appropriate help. In mental health crises, such as a person feeling
suicidal , deliberately harming themselves, having a panic attack or being acutely
psychotic , someone with appropriate mental health first aid skills can reduce the risk of the person coming to harm.
There is also stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems, which may be reduced by improving public understanding of their experiences.

With regards to the project, to have its full result when kick start, Professionals in Mental Health, Health sector workers, persons suffering from mental illness and the general public will be taken through our project training sessions , especially professional facilitators and instructors to provide these services to the general population in every part of this country.

Conclusively ,the Government through Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, Christian Health Association of Ghana, Mental Health Authority ,Non Governmental Organizations in Mental health, Individuals and Professionals in Mental Health care are to support this call at point in our great nation Ghana & give priority to these two critical areas of Mental Health care in Ghana.

Maternal Mental Health & Mental Health First Aid Project – Ghana.
Thanks a lot.

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