President urges for early screening in bid to tackle maternal mental health disorders

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said that it was time to push for EU directives aimed at highlighting the need for a holistic strategy and action plan on maternal mental health

jeanelle_mifsud
Jeanelle Mifsud
25 May 2017, 4:18pm
President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said that early detection of depression and other conditions must be ensured
President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said that early detection of depression and other conditions must be ensured
Malta’s President, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, has called for stronger synergies between civil society and national authorities to ensure that the necessary and relevant policies are implemented in order to safeguard the earliest possible detection and treatment of maternity-related mental illness.

Speaking at the Maternal Mental Health Conference, entitled ‘Breaking down barriers to seeking help during pregnancy and the postpartum’, the President said that early detection of depression and other conditions must be ensured and that “mothers should know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Pregnant women should be screened at their first appointment, and throughout their pregnancy. Early effective interventions, and interdisciplinary action is needed, and pregnant women and mothers in the postpartum period can, and should, be screened for maternal mental health disorders,” she said.

Coleiro Preca referred to indicators from the World Health Organisation which state that 10% of all pregnant women, and 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental health disorder, particularly depression.

“These indicators are even more alarming in developing countries, where over 15% of women during pregnancy, and 19% of women, after child birth, are reported to experience depression,” Coleiro Preca said.

She also quoted research which shows that 50% to 75% of mothers with mental health issues are not detected, despite the fact that pregnancy and postpartum is a period characterised by high contact with healthcare professionals.

The President added that achieving the healthy development of families and communities was at the heart of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 3 which focuses on ensuring holistic health, and sustainable wellbeing for all the people of the world.

“The mental and physical health of mothers is definitely the cornerstone of stronger families, and it is also essential to ensure the wellbeing of society,” the President said.

Coleiro Preca said that it was the time to push for relevant directives within the European Union aimed at further highlighting the need for a holistic strategy and action plan on maternal mental health. “In this way, the authorities of member states will be bound to act,” she said.

The President urged all women to speak about the stress and the challenges of motherhood.

“Reaching for help, when we need it, should not be seen as a sign of weakness. It is often, one of the most courageous things we can do. Sharing, connecting, and building honest and open relationships are crucial for mental wellbeing,” she said.