> Background

Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan

The Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan project is improving awareness, developing support services, and will make policy recommendations for women who suffer from depression during pregnancy and postpartum. 

Saskatchewan currently lacks a provincial policy for identifying and treating perinatal depression.  Each regional health authority has varying practices and none are required by the province to screen pregnant women or new mothers for depression.  While some support services and medical treatments are available, they are inconsistent.  This project will put forth a policy recommendation report in August 2010 to the Ministry of Health on how to better serve Saskatchewan’s mothers.

Maternal mental health is significant because up to 20 per cent of women suffer from maternal depression, meaning approximately 2600 Saskatchewan mothers and their infants are affected every year.  Mothers depressed during pregnancy are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care.  These mothers are at higher risk of premature delivery and obstetrical complications.  Children of depressed mothers are more likely to experience psychological, behavioural, attachment, growth and developmental problems, which ultimately leads to reduced capacity as citizens.  Maternal depression, when left undetected and untreated, can also lead to psychosis, homicide, and suicide.  There have been maternal suicides in Saskatchewan and a recent attempt by a mother to kill her three young children. 

Reliable and valid research shows that early identification can lead to primary intervention and effective treatment.  The Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale can identify women at risk for depression, and proper medication and psychological support can help women overcome this illness.  Alberta and British Columbia already mandate universal screening, and New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba are interested in implementing similar protocols.  Saskatchewan families would benefit from a provincial strategy that employs these preventative and restorative measures. 

The Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan working group has support and representation from many professional associations and provincial organizations.  There are participants from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers, Saskatchewan Medical Association, and the Registered Psychiatric Nurses Association of Saskatchewan, among others.  Other organizations with representatives include the Prevention Institute of Saskatchewan, KidsFirst, HealthLine, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, First Nations and Inuit Health, University of Saskatchewan, Health Quality Council, staff from the Ministry of Health, and women with lived experience. 

This project is being conducted in conjunction with a public awareness campaign, which will distribute resources to health professionals, provide educational materials to women, and promote this issue across Saskatchewan.  A major conference this past fall in Regina called ‘Unmasking Postpartum Depression’ brought awareness to this issue and called for a provincial policy strategy.  The keen reception to this awareness campaign has illustrated the cooperation and interest of physicians, nurses, mothers and the general public.  There is clearly great support for this initiative.       

The Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan project is an opportunity to provide better care for mothers and their families.  It will promote education, screening and treatment of maternal depression.  This project and its working group plays an important role in advocating for more comprehensive mental health services and giving voice to Saskatchewan’s mothers.

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If you would like any more information regarding this project please contact the project lead or her research assistant:

Angela Bowen, RN, PhD
Associate Professor, College of Nursing
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
angela.bowen@usask.ca



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