It is only fitting to post our first blog on this day, 19 June 2019. A year ago, today, the African Alliance for Maternal Mental Health was launched in Lilongwe, Malawi! Over eight countries, twenty organizations and institutions were represented with a total of eighty participants attending the launch. The launch started our journey to ensuring that the growing challenges of the mental health of mothers across Malawi and in every country in Africa are duly highlighted and acted on and that the voices of mothers are heard on matters of national policy.
Mothers matter because, continent wide, mothers play an integral role in the rearing of children and contribution to the social economic status of any country. In a country like Malawi, where majority of the population is female and where 29% of people aged 15 to 29 are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child, it has become pertinent that the issues mothers face regarding their mental health, especially during the time of their pregnancies and the postpartum period are put to the forefront.
So, what has been one of our highlights this past year?
We took part in this year’s’ World Maternal Mental Health day (WMMHD) that is celebrated on the first Wednesday of May. The theme for this year was, Maternal Mental Health Matters. This day is used to raise awareness around the growing burden of maternal mental ill health. In many countries, as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experiences some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Unnoticed and untreated illnesses can have profound consequences for both mother and child and this is often as a result of lack of knowledge of maternal mental health disorders among service providers working with mothers in maternal and child health units.
The African Alliance for Maternal Mental Health partnered with the organization Maikhanda (http://www.maikhanda.org/)– to orient their facilitators of women groups on maternal mental health. MaiKhanda Trust is an organization working within the field of maternal and child health in 12 districts of Malawi. The 35 community facilitators, who work to encourage safe motherhood in their community women’s groups, were introduced to Maternal Mental Health and had fruitful discussions around common perinatal mental disorders in women(such as depression and anxiety) and how to identify them and provide support. A representative of the facilitators, together with an active drama group, hosted a women’s group meeting the following day to raise awareness of this burden to the women, men, chiefs and religious leaders present. The community appreciated the awareness raising event and welcomed the call to continue to raise awareness of maternal mental health to the other communities.
Can you suggest other ways of reaching women and men with the message that maternal mental health matters? Please leave a comment below.