Whispers of the mind: Unseen illusions

The demeanour of those surrounding the mother can push her into darker emotional depths, where she may not hesitate to harm her infant, and tragically it might escalate to murder. - Sinu Mehna, Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Hypnotherapist
Whispers of the mind: Unseen illusions

Neethu Chandran

It was a routine visit to the pediatrician with her less than six months old child. During examination, the doctor noticed unusual nail marks on the baby's body, sparking suspicion. With no clear explanation for the injuries, it was the doctor who recommended that both parents seek psychological evaluation without delay.

The 30-year-old, who initially appeared composed upon entering the counseling room, later broke down and began to unravel her sorrows one by one. Sinu Mehna, a consultant psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist practising independently in Kakkanad, reveals that her family members had been oblivious to the turmoil of depression hidden within her until she finally opened up.

She was the cherished only daughter of her parents, showered with love from both her family and her husband's during pregnancy. However, after childbirth, their focus shifted entirely to the newborn. Left longing for the care and attention she once received, she gradually sank into the depths of postpartum depression. Consequently, her frustration often manifested in abusive actions towards the child, leaving visible nail marks on the little one's body.

Her mental state deteriorated to the extent that she began comparing the number of clothes her husband and family members gifted to the baby with those she received during post-delivery ceremonies.

After lengthy discussions, she confessed to mistreating the child. Her anger often escalated to violence when the baby cried, a behaviour she found difficult to comprehend. Sinu Mehna noted that after two years of counseling, the mother returned to a state of normality.

Unveiling the harsh reality

In the realm of postpartum depression, the harsh truth remains that some still view it as a modern fabrication, blaming it on social media too, dismissing it as mere reluctance to care for the baby. Such challenges may have existed in the past, and women may have silently overcome them through various means.

The surrounding attitudes can drive mothers into darker moods, where they might not hesitate to harm their babies, sometimes tragically leading to murder. According to psychologist Sinu Mehna, a gynaecologist once sought her counseling services and disclosed realizing she had postpartum depression when her child turned four years old.

The sense of loss over her career, sacrificed for her child, haunted her for years. Even as a gynaecologist herself, it took her a long time to recognize her own condition. This realization, according to Sinu Mehna, underscores how much more challenging it must be for ordinary women facing similar struggles.

Shunning the healing light

A study by Pooja Prasad reveals a concerning trend: despite seeking treatment for physical ailments, many individuals hesitate to address their mental health needs. The report highlights that 53.1 per cent of women grappling with depression attempt self-recovery, possibly due to its mild nature. Others lean on support from partners, family, and friends to navigate through. Shockingly, only 0.8 per cent of them actively seek professional help for their condition, with a mere 1.6 per cent open to consulting psychologists or psychiatrists, underscoring the pervasive stigma and reluctance surrounding mental healthcare.

The statistics laid out in this report offer a stark glimpse into the distressing mental health landscape faced by women in Kerala. Awareness of such issues often arises through social media platforms, shedding light on the urgent need for more effective strategies to educate and inform the public about postpartum depression.

Amma Manas

Regrettably, there remains a notable absence of a dedicated government initiative aimed directly at tackling postpartum depression. The 'Amma Manas' scheme represents a modest effort in this regard. Under this programme, junior public health nurses and ASHA workers, operating through district health centres, receive training on postpartum depression awareness. These health workers visit the homes of pregnant women, diligently inquiring about their health concerns, thus incorporating an element of proactive approach towards addressing postpartum depression.

Dr KK Shailaja, the RCH in-charge for Thrissur district, highlighted the comprehensive monitoring provided under the Amma Manas scheme, spanning from pregnancy to 42 days post-delivery. She notes that depression can manifest in women shortly after childbirth, citing a maternal death reported in 2023 linked to this issue. Many affected women may have experienced depression previously, exacerbated by factors like discontinuing medication after marriage and other life changes.

'Amma Manas' provides pregnant women and their companions with a questionnaire to assess their mental health, ensuring support for those facing challenges. Dr Jayanthi emphasizes that many women hesitate to openly acknowledge their issues, which can aggravate their crises.

(Last in the series is Causes of postpartum depression multifaceted)

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