Psychological Intervention Approved by WHO Yields Surprising Success in Fighting Perinatal Depression

Thinking Healthy Programme (THP)

A new psychological intervention advocated by World Health Organization is yielding impressive results in tackling perinatal depression among low- and middle-income countries.

This groundbreaking initiative, known as the Thinking Healthy Programme (THP), has received extensive recognition and accolades for its unmatched achievements in mitigating depression among expectant mothers who are poor.

Perinatal and postnatal depressions affect about one in every four to five women across the globe, which is expected to be much higher in places like Pakistan.

Mental health professionals have recently been compelled to develop workable solutions by considering the immense implications of maternal depression on childcare and developmental outcomes.

Comprehensive research initiatives were led by Dr. Atif Rahman, a renowned psychiatrist associated with the Liverpool University Centre for Global Mental Health, Psychiatry and Brain.

His team carried out an in-depth study that focused on a cohort comprising 900 depressed pregnant women from poor families.

This represented the beginning of one of the most expansive randomized controlled trials ever conducted in the developing countries.

The Thinking Healthy Program (THP) was provided to a total of 463 patients, which embodies the tenets of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), with 440 people forming the control group.

It was amazing that even after giving birth, these positive effects lasted. It was amusing that the findings showed, there had been 50% less incidence of postpartum depression when compared between two groups.

One which had been controlled and another in which cognition behavioral therapy (CBT) had been integrated into the usual roles of well-trained community health workers.

The Thinking Healthy Programme (THP) is based on basic but powerful cognitive-behavioural techniques.

These interventions target problems such as low self-esteem, inadequate parenting of infants and loneliness from social isolation.

For instance, behavioral activation interventions promote adaptive activities like taking care of oneself or engaging more positively with an infant such as play.

Furthermore, problem-solving skills are helpful in overcoming difficulties that hamper implementation of these strategies.

Moreover, maternal offspring were also shown to have improvement in outcomes such as increased coverage of immunization, less diarrhea episodes and more involvement by the parents in their children’s playtime.

With a global presence that extends beyond its birthplace in Pakistan, this innovative program has now been endorsed by The World Health Organization (WHO) and is operating in over thirty countries worldwide.

They include China, Vietnam, India and Peru as a representation of various cultural settings.

It is worth mentioning that peer counselors have to be well versed with the role they play or assist on this matter within five days; thus it takes relatively long time for them to grasp their roles.

Additionally, community-based peer counselor training has been masterminded by this move, which has greatly amplified its societal impact and range.

Despite it being a challenge to expand the national thinking healthy programme initiative, this work remains at its highest level.

To date, Dr. Atif Rahman and his colleagues have been continually exploring innovative ways of integrating technology as they seek to scale up their intervention program.

This can be a turning point in the delivery of mental health care services where the program is tested for its effectiveness in terms of setting up school mental health program.

Such a movement suggests an encouraging future for the development of mental health projects.

The success story of THP in addressing global inequalities in mental health with respect to perinatal depression among vulnerable populations is a ray of hope.

The introduction of this strategy may lead to significant changes in various mental healthcare paradigms by offering an affordable and accessible system.

Furthermore, it can move towards improving maternal/infant well-being in low-resource settings across developing countries.


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  • Psychological Intervention Approved by WHO Yields Surprising Success in Fighting Perinatal Depression