Pilot study points to suicide 'trend' in pregnant women
Religious leaders need to start conversations about suicide.
That's the recommendation of King Edward VIII Hospital's head of psychology‚ Dr Naseema Vawda‚ after a pilot study recorded a shift in pregnant women attempting suicide.
Vawda was speaking during a presentation of her study‚ “Suicide attempts during pregnancy in South Africa”‚ on Friday at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health's research day at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
“It’s like HIV or termination of pregnancy. We had those conversations and we’re moving forward. Mental health‚ whether it is suicide‚ suicidal behaviour‚ suicidal ideation‚ suicidal attempts and suicides that are carried out successfully‚ needs to be part of the conversation in mosques‚ temples and churches in the community‚” she said.
Vawda’s research found that out of a sample size of 27 women‚ nine had attempted to commit suicide while pregnant.
“While doing clinical work and supervising interns‚ I had noticed an increasing trend over the years where women who were pregnant were coming in with suicidal tendencies. That worried me because it was a new thing‚” she said‚ explaining her choice of research topic.
While conducting her research‚ she found that some of the triggers of suicide among pregnant women included problems in partner relationships and family life‚ as well as financial stress or witnessing the death of a significant other.
“The cause of suicide among pregnant women can be anything from arguments with a boyfriend to being reprimanded by parents for falling pregnant.”
Vawda said the early identification of these triggers was key in trying to prevent suicide attempts.
“When admitted‚ pregnant suicide attempters should be co-managed holistically by obstetricians‚ physicians and mental health professionals throughout pregnancy and antenatally‚” she said.
She believes the conversation on mental health‚ suicide in particular‚ must be deepened to kill stigma.
“We must create awareness of the resources available to people who feel like that. Once you start destigmatising it and bringing it out into the open‚ people will be more willing to communicate about it. That would enhance prevention efforts and increase the likelihood of them approaching organisations that can help. We must remember that when people feel pressured to hide their pain‚ that’s when they feel unsupported and go ahead and act on their feelings.”
Vawda pointed out that although her sample size was small‚ her findings indicated that suicide attempts by pregnant women were not a rare occurrence.