Monrovia - Friday, April 8, 2017 was observed as World Health Day on depression as theme.
Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normal enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for a protracted period.
People with depression suffer loss of energy, change in appetite, anxiety, and reduced concentration, among others.
At Peace Clinic located at Old Road in Sinkor, Mercy Forpka facilitates a discussion on depression with a group of 25pregnant women.
Her passion as a former classroom teacher allows her to present the topic with much ease – with participants nodding their heads in attestation.
Mercy is member of Peace Transit Center of Sister Chantal Memorial, the nonprofit arm of Peace Clinic. Both organizations organized the event.
She tells her listeners that depression is not a weakness and that it’s a sickness that happens to anybody. According to her, depression is treatable with talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of both.
Before Mercy’s lecture, the women have been listening to an audio recording of the Big Belly Business book.
The 281-page book is an elaborate month-to-month guide to health baby prepared specifically for pregnant women in Liberia.
The book is a collaborative effort by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Liberia’s ministry of health and the What To Expect Foundation – thanks to USAID for funding.
The event made a significant impact on the women. All of them said the event helped them find solution when they feel depressed.
Kula Sesay is nine months pregnant. She says as a result of the event, she now feels confident in speaking about her situation with relatives.
Maryline is eight month pregnant.
“I really benefitted from the event. Before Mercy started speaking, I was listening to the radio and the woman reading from the big belly book advised us against eating portor and too much peper. I was eating portor when I heard her. So, I just threw my portor over there,” Maryline said.
Portor in common name for a smoothened and baked clay sold on the market. Pregnant often find its aroma enticing.
All of the women built a consensus on a single issue causing the, depression during pregnancy - that they feel ostracized when their husbands or persons responsible for their pregnancies blame them for not bearing sons.
“So what do I do when my man gives me hard time for boy child,” Maryline, fearing she might be mocked by her friends, asked in a subdued voice.
But no, she wasn’t mocked. In fact, her question was elevated into a bigger platform where nurses at Peace Clinic had to intervene with both medical and social explanations.
According to the women, the urge for a male child is a serious contributing factor for having more children – even when they cannot afford to cater to them.
Dedeh is in her mid-40s. She has been coming to Peace Clinic for various maternity services. She just walked in the hospital but her story is heart touching.
“I am suffering. My first child was a girl.
The man kept talking to me for a male child until now I have three children – all of them girls.
Now, I am pregnant with my fourth child and for all these months I have been worrying about what child I will born. If it’s another girl, then I am in serious trouble.
He has already threatened to divorce me if I born another girl child,” Dedeh says.
According to her, she has been feeling lonely and detached ever since she knew she was pregnant. Her husband has been giving her loose talks about her inability to give him a male child.
Some pregnant women appeared to be more knowledgeable than other.
“You do not need to feel depressed. We all know women are not responsible for the gender of the child. It’s the men.
They have the X and Y genes. Women only have the Y gene. So, let’s take time to explain to them that apart from God, they, the men are responsible for the gender of the child. After all, we reap for them what they sowed in us,” Fatu Konneh reminded her colleagues.
Justine Mutako is officer in charge of both Peace Clinic and its nonprofit arm, Peace Transit of Sister Chantal Memorial. She admits Dedeh’s condition is one many reasons for depression during pregnancy.
According to her, many pregnant women facing depression have been visiting the clinic. Some women, she says, are depressed because they cannot afford the minimum materials needed during delivery.
Others feel depressed because they were not accompanied by their husbands or relatives.
“Knowing these causes, we have been talking to them to relieve them of their depression,” nurse Justine stated.
While the women were gathered at the clinic, Justine and others were spread in the community to speak with men whose wives were pregnant as well as young people, whom she said are noticeably depressed.