Carter Center, Partners Initiate New Program on Maternal, Mental Health

Health Minister Dr. Jallah launch the official module of the THP with Mr. Benedict Dossen, Carter Center’s program lead in Liberia

A ‘perinatal’ mental health problem is one that you experience any time from becoming pregnant up to a year after you give birth.

Having a baby is a big life event. It’s natural to experience a range of emotions during pregnancy and after giving birth. But if any difficult feelings start to have a big effect on your day-to-day life, you might be experiencing a perinatal mental health problem. 

However, the Carter Center and Liberia Center for Outcome Research on Mental Health (LiCORM) with funding from the Open Society Foundations, Grand Challenges Canada, and the Grand Challenges Africa, have officially launched a new program known as Thinking Healthy Program (THP) in Liberia. 

With the unveiling of this program, it will help mothers and soon-to-be moms focus on positive mental health and how to get help from nurses and medical personnel while at a particular locality within Montserrado and Margibi Counties where the project will be mainly focused.

The launch, which took place on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at the Montserrado County Health Center on the Duport Road, was also held in collaboration with the government through the Ministry of Health, especially the Montserrado County Health Team.

It was graced by several health practitioners from the Ministry of Health, Carter Center, National Midwifery Association, Public Health Institute of Liberia, Jhpiego/STAIP, Liberia Association of Mental Health Professional and the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA), and the Superintendent of Montserrado County, Florence Brandy.  

Worldwide, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression, according to WHO.

Maternal depression is also linked to higher rates of stunting, diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections and reduced immunization rates.

“In developing countries, between 20% and 33% percent of women struggle with their mental health during pregnancy and after birth,” WHO notes.

In remarks, Carter Center Country Director, Dorbor Jallah, lauded the Ministry of Health and other partners for the successful launch of the THP in Liberia.

He said for 11 years, the Carter Center mental health program has been running closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to improve mental health in the country. 

This program, according to Mr. Jallah, is the heartbeat of the United States former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, who was recognized by the WHO for her 50th years of leadership to improve access to health care for all people living with mental health and substance use issues. 

He said Mrs. Carter and President James Carter, who is turning 97, believe that health is a human right and there is no health without mental health. Out of this belief, the Carter Center began working in Liberia on mental health issues. 

Certainly, the Carter Center, he said, remains committed to improving the mental health system in Liberia to increase access for Liberians to fight for their rights and wealth for those people living with mental health problems. 

Mr. Jallah added, “This program is just one of several initiatives that the Carter Center is set to embark upon for 2021 and 2022. We are glad to see our mothers, sister and daughters have a unique opportunity to be careful in order to address mental health challenges that they may be experiencing.” 

“We want to particularly thank all of you, our partners and the government in particular who have worked on this program in Liberia. For the Ministry of Health, we want to specifically thank Minister Jallah, Dr. Wapoe for their tireless effort in making sure that the program became successful today.”

Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, who launched the project on behalf of the government of Liberia expressed her excitement that it is going to help mothers and soon-to-be moms in the country. 

Minister Jallah said with the launch of this program, nurses should take good care of pregnant women, especially those who are in a state of depression.

She also thanked the Carter Center and other partners who trained the trainers to successfully implement the project in various health facilities. 

“Now, Thinking Healthy is very important to all of us and all the women in Liberia, we want to officially launch this program for our current mothers, past mothers and our future mothers,” she said when she launched the program. 

Minister Jallah assured the Carter Center and partners of the Ministry’s full support towards the implementation of the THP and other projects, especially the one that has to do with women who produce the future of Liberia.

“It takes into account the impact of a mother’s thoughts on her feelings and actions in relation to her wellbeing, her relationship with her child and her relationship with her support system,” said Benedict Dossen, the Carter Center’s program lead in Liberia while providing an overview of the program.

Dossen said, “It’s the first Thinking Healthy adaptation that targets maternal mental health in Liberia and sub-Saharan Africa using a culturally adapted, evidence-based model.”