Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Network of support and shared real life experiences on overcoming depression and suicide effective in saving lives

It was heart-wrenching to read the report on the mother who jumped to death while holding on to her child (“Mum who jumped to death with newborn had post-partum depression: Coroner”; May 10, 2017 TODAY Newspaper).

Ii is never easy for women –they have menstrual periods every month where some of them have cramps in their stomach; and when they have menopause, they have moody swings and get irritable. Added to that, when women are in the family way, as with the case of Ms Koh Suan Ping, they may go through Postpartum Depression. Their male partners must fully understand all these issues so that they are given adequate protection against the challenges they face.

After they give birth, women could experience physical changes and emotional issues as follows:

Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in the woman’s body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by her thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave the mother feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.

Emotional issues. When the woman is deprived of sleep and overwhelmed, she may have trouble handling even minor problems which in other times she can handle easily. She may be anxious about her ability to take care of her newborn.

Like many types of mental illness, education on postpartum depression is also necessary to prevent the loss of life – be it for the mother or her child.

With the government’s on-going efforts to encourage singles to get married and reproduce themselves to meet the falling birthrate, it is crucial to adopt a slew of measures to tackle postnatal depression and prevent suicide.

To ensure that women who are in the family way have better coping mechanisms, there is a dire need for gynecologists to team up with counsellors and social workers to educate women on postpartum depression and then take the opportunity to find out if they have any problems which they are unable to cope with. It would also be useful to educate the spouse or other family members on postpartum depression where printed information can be handed out.

Sharing experiences with those who have walked the journey can make a huge difference in reclaiming or saving a life. In the Yio Chu Kang constituency where I live, talks by professionals are being held on dementia and depression in the ‘Reaching Out’ seminars.

But what would be most useful is for resilient caregivers who have walked the journey and overcome depression and suicide to share their life experiences and coping mechanisms with the audience. Their experiences must be valued.

Religious groups can also rally around expectant mothers to provide unflagging support.


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