International Day of Action for Women’s Health: Why women need to be screened for mental health

International Day of Action for Women’s Health: Why women need to be screened for mental health

Mental health diagnosis must not be limited only to mothers. Investment for addressing mental health issues in women across the society needs to be made on a priority basis as their well-being can impact other people in the society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health problem is gender-specific, with women in developing economies more prone to mental health issues.

The International Day of Action for Women’s Health, observed on May 28 each year since 1987, is an opportunity to commemorate the successes a country meets in securing proper mental health of its women. As the movement in favor of women’s mental health garners increasing support with each passing year, healthcare providers and government officials across the world are working with renewed focus while implementing necessary guidelines to improve the health status of women.

Screening women for mental health problems

In a recent study, researchers from the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), NYU Langone Medical Center and the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research indicated that though screening of maternal depression had gone up by nearly 30 percent during 2004-2013, very few doctors screen women for diagnosis purposes.

Commenting on the study, titled “Identifying Maternal Depression in Pediatric Primary Care,” co-author of the study Dr. Ruth E.K. Stein, attending physician, CHAM and professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said, “Maternal depression is often overlooked and untreated because women with mental health issues do not routinely access healthcare for themselves. The pediatrician’s office is a frequently-visited venue for mothers, offering invaluable opportunities for pediatricians to identify the condition and connect moms with services that can help families thrive.”

Physicians bat for necessary test for maternal depression

For the study, the scientists examined data collected and collated during the American Academy of Pediatrics Periodic Surveys. For the latest survey, 321 non-trainee general practice pediatricians were questioned about mental health problems of mothers, level of accessibility to services and the kind of training received by them concerning mental health in 2013.

The observations made were compared with those obtained from a sample of 457 pediatricians in 2004. The findings indicated an increase by 33-44 percent during 2004-2013 in the number of pediatricians who had inquired about maternal depression.

Though the results indicated an increasing number of physicians showing interest in conducting necessary test for maternal depression among their female patients, the scope of mental health was not taken into consideration by all of them.

Emphasizing on the need to coerce all pediatricians to conduct screening of their patients for possible risks of mental illnesses, lead author of the study Dr. Bonnie D. Kerker, Associate Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center, and research scientist Nathan Kline Institute, said, “Not all pediatricians, however, think mental health or family health is within the scope of their practice. Given how much we know about parent characteristics as risk factors for poor child development, we need to place more emphasis on understanding the entire family context, so pediatricians can provide appropriate care for their patients.”

Road to recovery

Though the idea of adopting methods for detection of depression and mental illnesses among women is not new in the United States, certain state policies pose a hurdle to therapeutic interventions. Kerker said, “Providers may be hesitant to screen if they don’t have feasible treatment options to offer their patients.”

However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended in February 2016 that clinicians screen all adults for depression, especially pregnant and postpartum women.

Maternal depression and existing mental illnesses among women is a matter of concern as it affects the mental health of dependent infants and intellectual development of growing children. A study published online in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics in February 2016 said it was imperative that women get mental health treatment, which some of them are direly in need of. For those manifesting mild symptoms, it is necessary to seek early treatment to prevent exacerbation of the problem.

If you or your loved one is struggling with any kind of mental illness, you may get in touch with the Sovereign Mental Health Services to know about various mental health centers. Chat online with one of our experts today or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 for further information about mental health facilities.

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