One in five women suffers from depression or anxiety during and after pregnancy in South Africa and UCT’s Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) and 100 international organisations are campaigning to raise awareness around maternal mental health. The WMMH campaign hopes to raise awareness of maternal mental health issues, so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer.
The campaign also wants the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organisation to officially recognise WMMH Day, and commemorate it annually on the first Wednesday of May.
“It is still a very silent issue in South Africa. There was a misconception that mental distress exhibited by a mother may just merely be baby blues or, on the other end of the spectrum psychosis.
Baby blues is a temporary state where the mother feels overwhelmed and it relates to hormonal changes.
“It’s fairly common and can last for a few days or a week. Depression is much more severe. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and a lack of enjoyment of the infant. People don’t get help because there is a stigma around this issue in communities and health institutions,” said PMHP director Simone Honikman. Honikman said untreated illnesses could have detrimental effect on babies, including attachment problems, language delays and social and behavioural problems.
“People don’t realise these conditions are relatively easily treated, a trained and experienced counsellor and other support systems can help.”
For more information on WMMH, visit https://pmhp.za.org/contact/ or call 021 689 8390 for assistance.