Since the Department of Health (DOH) launched the national suicide prevention hotline (dubbed as Hopeline) in September 2016, at least 2,208 women, between the ages of ages of 20 and 39, called to sought for help, according to GMA News. (Male callers came at 1,279.)
No statistical figures were available to show if these calls were made by pregnant women or women who had just given birth. But prenatal and postpartum depression cannot be ruled out when talking about mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists depression as the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.
In the U.K, the National Institute and Care Excellence (NICE) are encouraging doctors to include mental health assessment in the prenatal and postnatal care of women. The organization reiterates that women should be asked about their mental state at their first midwife appointment, such as how often in the past month they have been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless, and if they experienced symptoms of depression such as changes in appetite or sleeping patterns. It is but another advice for doctors to start paying attention to mental health.
Doctors "play a vital role in helping vulnerable people to get the correct diagnosis and the support they need," said Dr. Andrew Black, deputy chair of the NICE indicator advisory committee, via a statement. According to WHO, 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of women who gave birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression, and it's a number can even go as high as 20 percent in developing countries such as ours.
In Manhattan, New York, there's a newly opened clinic that specifically caters to mothers dealing with prenatal and postpartum depression (PPD). The clinic, called Motherhood Center of New York, is composed of social workers and physicians who focus on the mental health of pregnant women and new moms who suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). According to its website, it offers prenatal and postnatal classes, counseling, consultation, and day-long treatment for pregnant women, and moms and their babies.
"Since my experience with PPD nearly 11 years ago, it’s been my dream to create a program that treats new and expecting moms that are suffering," the clinic's program director Paige Bellenbaum toldBabble.
In an interview with Fast Company, Bellenbaum recalled how she became "overwhelmed with the impulse to throw herself and her baby" under a passing bus. She immediately hopped into a cab to a psychiatric center who diagnosed her with PPD. Even if she was a social worker, Bellenbaum did not recognize her symptoms until that terrifying moment.
Barely a month after the opening of Motherhood in New York, the clinic has received seen over 40 women, fielded dozens of calls, and received nothing but positive feedback. The clinic operates independently of any hospital, which means that patients do not need a referral to get an appointment so that anyone can call at any time. (Read about the symptoms of baby blues and PPD here.)
While the country, as of writing, does not have a clinic similar to Motherhood Center of New York (yet), it’s important to stress that pregnant Pinays and new moms should be able to talk to their doctors about their mental state. While there are hospital and centers that an expectant mom and new mom could go to for counseling, the fear of being stigmatized for having a mental illness could hinder them from seeking help.
The good news is PhilHealth now covers mental health in its benefits package. "Covered na ngayon yun ng PhilHealth. So tumawag kayo [sa hotline], 'wag kayong mangamba. Kaya nga 'let's talk about it.' Alisin na natin yung stigma," DOH spokesperson, Dr. Eric Tayag, said.
The DOH urges everyone to support and encourage people who may have depression, neurological conditions such as ADHD, or intellectual disabilities, to seek treatment.
"Ang Philippine society, I think, is a stigma-conscious society. Halos lahat ng tao may stigma," DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial said during a press briefing for World Health Day with the theme "Depression: Let’s Talk," a year-long campaign to encourage people who have mental illness to seek and get help.
She added, "Yan po ay sana ma-erase po natin. Be open and be accommodating to people — inclusive."
Hopeline may be reached at (02) 804-4637, (0917)5584673. You can also send a message to 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.