UWI Mona, WJC student documentary raises awareness on postpartum depression

Observer West writer

Thursday, April 25, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – One in seven mothers are said to experience postpartum depression (PPD) after pregnancy, and with the issue said to be prevalent in western Jamaica, six final year students of the Communication Analysis and Planning (CAP II) class of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Western Jamaica Campus, have produced a 15-minute documentary, aimed at raising awareness to the mental health issue.

Postpartum depression, also referred to as postnatal depression, is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioural changes that has its onset within six weeks after a mother delivers her baby.

Symptoms of the mental condition may include extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns. During the period, the mother experiences thoughts of inability to cope, care for the child and herself. If the illness becomes severe, the mother could become suicidal and even hurt the child.

Additionally, each pregnancy the mother goes through could cause the issue to become more severe.

Causes of the condition may include, unplanned pregnancy, physical changes in the mother's body, financial difficulties, limited social support, living alone, marital conflict, a history of depression, a history of mental health problems on the part of the mother's family and the age at the time of pregnancy — the younger the mother, the higher the risk.

Diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset, but also on the severity of the depression. The condition can be treated with medication and counselling.

Last week, the UWI students presented the documentary during a media viewing held at the institution's Western Jamaica campus.

The documentary entitled “In between the cries: the stories of postpartum depression in Jamaica,” forms part of the students' 'Save Our Mom's campaign,' a project which aims to reach a spectrum of mothers, especially across western Jamaica, by encouraging mothers 18-35 years old with the illness to seek help.

“We started our project in September 2018 with the aim of targeting mothers at the Women's Centre in Montego Bay being that interviews were done and it was indicated that females at the centre constantly expressed symptoms of postpartum depression. However, we had to switch target because of how hard it would be to reach these females who are under the age of 18,” said project manager Giselle Muir.

As a result, Muir said, interviews were started with the Western Regional Health Authority, which revealed that a number of unreported and untreated cases of postpartum depression did exist in the western region.

She said a focus group of eight mothers was utilised which yielded results of them undergoing postpartum depression, but failed to get treatment as a result of limited awareness raised within the region.

The team subsequently started the campaign with posters and brochures to help mothers become more aware. However, this was not enough so the team decided to create a documentary, which was reportedly lauded by Senior Medical Officer of Health (SMO) for St James, Dr Marcia Johnson Campbell, among others.

University of the West Indies, Mona, Western Jamaica Campus director, Dr Patrick Prendergast, in his remarks, said PPD is an area of health care that some focus must be brought to.

Prendergast in commending the students said “even though it is not something that we talk a lot about, we know the significant implications that PPD has for the delivery of postnatal care. And very often, what you find is that we are much more concerned about the health of the child, and if we were to stop and look at how concern we are about the health of the child, we would also have some concerns for the health of the mother. But, I know that is an area that we need to look to do some more work in.”

Prendergast stressed that the documentary touches him on two levels.

“One, a personal level, because I have seen family members go through this, and secondly, on the academic level where you are carrying on a tradition that is well recognised among CARIMAC (Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication) and CARIMAC students, in terms of raising critical social issues that need to be addressed in the wider society,” he argued.

University of the West Indies, Mona, Western Jamaica Campus CARIMAC coordinator, Steffon Campbell, in lauding the group, noted that they had no formal education in making a documentary, adding that “the value of the production is far-reaching.”

“This is something that can be shared on different platforms. This is something that is going to have an impact on lives that you cannot even think or imagine,” he stressed.

Campbell added that he was unaware of the issue before, and the documentary gave him “the opportunity to learn something.”

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