BENGALURU: A 22-year-old risk analyst and mental health advocate’s nine-month long online campaign to help pregnant women address their mental health during pregnancy, seems to finally found shape. The Bengaluru woman met Karnataka Health Commissioner D Randeep to discuss steps to screen women during and after pregnancy for mental health issues, and the idea was welcomed by the commissioner.
Randeep stated that the health department will kickstart a holistic maternal mental health campaign in the next few weeks. According to Anvita Nair, an employee of Ernst & Young, it all began on October 16, 2017, when her best friend died by suicide. Anvita’s life turned upside down and she suffered incessant headaches, insomnia, and was even diagnosed with mild atypical depression. She started to extensively research mental health and found how during the perinatal period -- pregnancy plus two-year postpartum period -- women were more prone to developing mental illnesses.
“This could range from lack of sleep to thoughts of self-harm. The very idea that a mother could have ill feelings towards her own child went against everything I knew about motherhood. From the woman who was suicidal and was being pressured to have a baby early, to the woman who was too depressed to bond with her newborn -- each story I read cemented the fact that these silent struggles needed to be addressed,” says Anvita.
She first started an online petition campaign #BeatTheBlues on change.org, asking the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoK, to make a policy to ensure that every health centre in the state conducts mandatory screening of perinatal women -- once during pregnancy and once in the postpartum period.
Also, train first responders to screen perinatal women for their mental health, and publish the list of health centres where mental health screening is being conducted. “The first step to fighting this problem is screening women for mental health during routine visits to their obstetrician-gynaecologist (OBG) ,” she said.