Disability and Gender-Based Violence

Emma is a Senior Research Officer at the PMHP and is a woman with a hearing disability. As we celebrate the International Day of Disabled Persons on the 3rd of December and think about the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, she shares some thoughts.

Multiple layers of discrimination

At least 10-15 percent of the global population comprises of people with disabilities (WHO, 2021).  People with disabilities experience many challenges on a daily basis in all sectors of life including accessing education and employment through to getting the healthcare services that they need. Women with disabilities experience additional barriers relating to their gender, race, and type of disability they have. For example, a black woman with a psycho-social disability such as schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder may be discriminated against because of the colour of her skin, where she lives, as well as because of the stigma associated with her mental health condition and unfounded assumptions of her capabilities.

Women with disabilities are at a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than non-disabled women, which can be compounded by the multiple challenges that they face as a result of their disabilities (Rees et al, 2011).

In South Africa, we talk about inclusivity, diversity, and equality, but in practice, does this include disability? Are the voice of people with disabilities heard, valued, and included?

GBV and women with disabilities

Regarding gender-based violence, many women and children with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse. Some women and children with disabilities are reliant on others for their care, and experience imbalances of power and abuse at the hands of their partners, family members, or those who are expected to provide care and assistance. This can include physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse, through to inappropriate care and neglect. If I am a wheelchair user, reliant on 24/7 physical care from someone including to bathe, dress, and feed me – and I experience abuse, will it be questioned? Will I be believed when someone is ‘helping’ me? If I report GBV, who will assist me with the care I require? Will I be worse off as a result of my reporting?

Of the very small number of cases of GBV that are reported by women with disabilities, the rates of prosecution towards perpetrators are very low (Hunt et al, 2018; Watermeyer et al, 2019).

What should we do?

  • We need to ensure that our campaigns, policies, programs, and interventions that address GBV issues are accessible, appropriate, and relevant to the needs and experiences of women and children with disabilities, regardless of the type of disability they have. Issues relating to accessibility of venues, materials, technology, and interpretation should be key in leveling the playing field.
  • We need to address and deal with the stigma towards disability, especially mental health conditions, rather than hiding behind ignorance. We need to look at the words and terms we use and make sure that they are appropriate and do not discriminate or exclude. For example, terms like ‘Deaf and dumb’ are outdated and discriminatory, just like the word ‘handicapped’ which comes from ‘cap in hand’ referring to begging. Other words such as ‘normal’ or ‘whole’ when referring to people without disabilities. What does this say about those with disabilities? That we are ‘abnormal’ and ‘incomplete’?
  • Most importantly, we need to ensure that the voices of women and children with disabilities are heard. So often women with disabilities are the last to be consulted on issues directly relating to us. Our input is the priority. To do this, it is vital that we are consulted at all stages, from design through to implementation and evaluation of policy and practices. This active participation will improve the sustainability and suitability of any intervention. Without our voice, these may have far-reaching and sometimes dire consequences.
  • Including people with disabilities should not just be a ‘ticking boxes’ activity. Our experiences are real and valid. Rather than making assumptions on our behalf, we need to actively engage and participate. We know what we need best which aligns with the disability slogan of ‘nothing about us, without us.’

Advocating for the rights of clients at Hanover Park Midwife Obstetric Unit

By Tyla Prinsloo, PMHP Mental Health Counsellor

It is often incredibly difficult to discuss issues of gender-based violence. It seems as if its nuances have become lumped together, and the gravity thereof lost in translation. Its component parts need to be brought to light with empathy and sincerity, so as to disrupt the patterns of behaviour that may result in our desensitisation and complicity. We ought to pay careful attention to our language, in this way we avoid victim-blaming and shame.

Hanover Park is not notorious, it’s bleeding

Gang violence, in particular, presents itself as a devastating by-product of our historical relationship with state-sanctioned violence and how it embedded itself into the psyche of marginalised communities. Hanover Park is a community deeply affected by this reality. Having worked at the PMHP in Hanover Park for almost two years now, I have had to confront the preconceived ideas held about this community and others like it – that the people who live here are passive victims stuck within a pit of despair. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the ingenuity of people within difficult and violent contexts and be able to recognise the beauty that exists therein. We need to avoid sensationalising the traumatic consequences of violence. And, the language of healing and intervention needs to belong to the community itself. The work of addressing violence in marginalised communities means that you have to surrender yourself to the answers that the community provides for itself. There is intergenerational trauma, but there are opportunities to foster resilience too. Violence does not mean that a community should be forgotten or blamed, but the cries of its people need to be heard. Hanover Park is not “notorious” for anything, Hanover Park is bleeding.

Tyla Prinsloo at a protest against gun violence in Hanover Park, 2021

Disempowerment and inequalities project into violence

When we pay close attention to the experiences of women in the area, we can uncover some insights into the way violence emerges. There is a delicate interplay between projection and displacement. A community like Hanover Park experiences intense levels of impoverishment, many basic needs are not met and when there is this kind of suffering, it is seldom that one has access to psychological care and safety, within the home. The complexity of these stressors occupies the mind of community members and violence may emerge as a by-product of disempowerment. Oftentimes the anger and pain that is felt, as a result of systemic inequalities, is projected onto family members- and women in particular. When people are pushed to the fringes of society, they’re forced to create a life out of ruin. When there is little to no opportunity to heal and restore, pain is reproduced in order to survive.

We cannot exclude men

The discussion around violence against women and children cannot exclude men, because to address the woundedness of a community, the woundedness of men cannot be ignored. Masculinity in and of itself is built on the premise of ‘strength, provision, and stoicism,’ but if these elements remain rigid and immovable, the consequences are dire. Advocating for, and defending, the rights of women using the Hanover Park Midwife Obstetric Unit necessarily must incorporate attention being drawn to systemic healing, individual unlearning, and restoring dignity. 

2021 protest against gun violence in Hanover Park, with the Alcardo Andrews Foundation and Moms Move for Justice.

Community Health Intervention through Musical Engagement (CHIME)

The CHIME project for perinatal mental health

We are excited to be collaborating with researchers from Goldsmiths University of London,  Imperial College, London, and Australian National University, on the Community Health Intervention through Musical Engagement (CHIME) project for perinatal mental health. CHIME aims to investigate, together with local stakeholders, how indigenous and interactive musical practices might be developed to support perinatal mental health in Africa. CHIME was trialed as an intervention in The Gambia, using existing women’s community music groups (Kanyeleng groups) to help pregnant women and new mothers with their mental wellbeing. Kanyeleng women, who play an important role in community ceremonies and public health campaigns, co-developed and then facilitated the intervention with all women attending an antenatal facility. Symptoms of depression were significantly reduced in women who received the intervention. Read more about the development of CHIME-Gambia here.  

Adapting CHIME in South Africa

The CHIME-SA project aims to describe how local and indigenous interactive music-making may function to support maternal mental wellbeing. We wish to investigate the feasibility of adapting existing musical traditions for this purpose and thus we organised a series of focus groups with a range of key stakeholders. We also aim to co-develop and prototype a musical intervention and an initial repertoire of songs together with community health workers (CHWs).

Focus groups

One to One Children’s Fund Africa is an organisation that delivers a range of interventions to support maternal and child health in Mankosi, rural Eastern Cape. Through their Enable project, they train local women to become CHWs. After we worked with One to One on our Nymakela4Care (N4C) project in 2021, where singing about health matters emerged as a spontaneous part of our N4C training workshop, we were excited to explore co-developing a musical intervention with them.

Remote focus group discussion with One to One management.

In February 2022 we facilitated a focus group discussion with the One to One management team to explore the feasibility of such an initiative. The team spoke about the experiences of pregnant women and mothers living in Mankosi. They shared their experiences of the singing and music-making the CHWs have been doing in their organisation, arising from an existing tradition in the local communities. They were strongly supportive of strengthening existing musical engagement practices of the CHWs to support maternal mental health.

In the same week, we had an enriching discussion with musicologists and musicians from Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu Natal. They spoke about the benefits of various South African music practices for healing and social connection. We had a vibrant conversation about the intersections of culture, spirituality, music-making, the body, and mind. The group shared some useful suggestions to support our co-design workshop structure.

Remote focus group discussion with musicians and musicologists

On a sunny Saturday morning in March 2022, our researcher Lele Sigwebela and co-facilitator Thandi Davies held a discussion with traditional healers. These healers represented various traditional healer organisations in the Western Cape and many of them work all over Southern Africa. The healers shared their personal narratives about how music has assisted them with their own mental well-being and with their training as healers. They all expressed that cultural music can act powerfully to connect and heal because music is an integral part of African tradition. It is a way ‘to uplift oneself’, express your thoughts, process your feelings, and create with others. 

PMHP junior researcher, Lele, and the traditional healers focus group participants.

In the first week of April 2022 PMHP director, Simone Honikman, and co-facilitator, Thandi Davies, held a discussion with healthcare workers to establish their thoughts on music-making and mental health. They shared several examples of interactive music-making interventions and cautioned that younger participants may not easily engage in traditional music-making practices. They recalled the tradition of health staff in facilities starting the day with religious singing and engaging the patients in the waiting areas for this. There were mixed views as to whether music-making within health facilities could feasibly be used to enhance maternal mental health.

CHIME-SA co-design workshop

In the first week of March 2022, our researcher Lele Sigwebela, and local research assistant, Ncumisa Waluwalu, were in the rural village of Mankosi, collaborating with seven of One to One’s mentor mothers/CHWs. These women were purposively selected as the most skilled composers, from among a much bigger group of CHWs.

Set against a backdrop of the beautiful Wild Coast, we ran a three-day workshop to co-design a musical engagement intervention for pregnant women and mothers in the surrounding villages. The workshop was a huge success! Despite the windy weather, poor cellular network signal, and power outages; the workshop achieved its main goals. The group composed and recorded a total of 14 songs that featured themes of engaging with difficult mothers-in-law and partners, destigmatizing emotional distress, encouraging social support through understanding, soothing babies, and offering messages of self-efficacy and resilience. The workshop participants generated the idea of facilitating choirs for all pregnant and postpartum women in their villages.

Our view from the workshop venue and Mdumbi Beach.

Throughout the workshop, there were sincere and in-depth discussions about the difficulties faced by pregnant women and mothers in the area but in equal measure, there was laughter, singing, and dancing. Lele and Ncumisa were affectionately welcomed by the mentor mothers and were struck by the kindness and warmth shown to them by the community.

The talented women of the CHIME workshop rehearse a song before recording.

Two workshop participants composing a song and dance.

What’s next?

The analysis from the focus group discussions and the methods we developed for the co-design workshop will be written up in academic papers and be presented at the International Marcé Conference later this year. We plan to develop a simple workshop guidance brief for others who may wish to run a similar process in South Africa, or elsewhere.  As per the agreement of the composers, and a creative commons license, we plan to disseminate the songs that were developed on several platforms.

We hope that different types of health providers, in a wide range of settings, will be inspired to bring interactive music-making, into their practice with perinatal women. If we are able to obtain further research funds, we may be able to test the intervention for effectiveness.

Keep an eye out for the release of the songs composed at the workshop which will be shared on the PMHP website or you can access them now on the CHIME YouTube.

Thank you

A huge thank you goes out to One to One Children’s Fund Africa and all our enthusiastic focus group participants for their support in making this project happen.  Our UK and Australian collaborators have been wonderful to work with – we are very grateful for all your support!

Postnatal Counselling at Hanover Park


by Tyla Prinsloo

“The iteration, caring for mothers caring for the future, really emerges when I reflect on this month in particular.

When working with mothers who are approaching their labour and delivery, it’s beautiful to witness the instinctual and organic transition each of them experiences. At the beginning of the counselling process, many women reflect on what motherhood might come to mean. And it’s something special to see these reflections emerge realistically when their babies are born.

There is such individualised confidence that each client forms within themselves, where one is able to reframe the anxiety and fear around the labour process into one that is intentional and grounded in breathing and mindfulness.

Babies seem to reveal parts of each client that is held onto with sincerity and humility. How wonderful it has been to walk this journey with clients.”

In the video below, Tyla shares some of the counselling work she’s done with postnatal mothers at Hanover Park MOU and reflects on how her clients have become empowered about labour and their birth.

This post is part of our #C4Mothers fundraising and awareness campaign

To enable us to offer this comprehensive counselling support for mothers in Hanover Park we need to raise additional funds!

Tyla Prinsloo joined our team in February this year and is employed on a part-time, short-term contract. She has become a vital team member to provide PPP and EAT sessions and her impact has already been recognised by her colleagues, the mothers she works with and the community of Hanover Park.

For her to continue, we appeal to you to help us raise funds to secure her position for another year.

Tyla Prinsloo, PMHP Mental Health Counsellor

With your contribution, we can continue to work together with mothers and their children by providing a safe space for care and healing!

There are many ways to donate to the PMHP!

Please help us reach our target of R250.000 by using this link to

Donate online now

Lulu’s Story

Lulu was pregnant with her second baby. With her and her husband already experiencing marital problems, it was extremely hard for Lulu to look forward to the pregnancy. Her baby was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as the country went into lockdown. Lulu had not prepared for the baby’s arrival and to make matters worse, her husband was now without a job. She felt completely hopeless and often described feeling down and depressed. Conflict between Lulu and her husband increased after the birth of their baby, with Lulu feeling that her husband was not doing enough to support her.

She experienced a lot of shame and guilt around not being able to provide for her baby’s basic needs. Together with her PMHP counsellor, Lulu was able to discuss and challenge her beliefs that she was not good enough as a mother. The counsellor allowed Lulu to identify the many examples where she has demonstrated valuable care for her children. The counsellor was able to work with Lulu and her husband to discuss how their conflict could be better managed.

The counselling also offered the opportunity to explore resources where Lulu would be able to get support from others. The counsellor referred her to The Alcardo Andrews Foundation in Hanover Park who provide food support to members of the community. Lulu and her family are now receiving a warm meal daily and are also the beneficiaries of weekly food parcels. Little did Lulu know, she would receive more than just food from the Alcardo Andrews Foundation. She has started volunteering at the foundation which has brought her a sense of pride and joy.

*Lulu volunteering at the Alcardo Andrews Foundation

Lulu has expressed appreciation for having the opportunity to work with women who share similar experiences to hers; unemployment, poverty and other vulnerabilities. This informal “support group” has functioned as an emotional refuge for her and others during this difficult time. It has been a long time since Lulu has felt good about herself.

Lulu continues to make use of the counselling service and she works hard on developing herself, often expressing her appreciation for the ongoing support.

*The PMHP is committed to client confidentiality in keeping with the ethical requirements of professional mental health practice. This client story reflects common scenarios or sets of circumstances faced by many of our clients. Pseudonyms are used and details are changed. This story is not based on any one particular woman's experience. 


We need to raise additional funds to enable us to offer this comprehensive counselling support for mothers in Hanover Park!

Tyla Prinsloo, registered counsellor, joined our team in February this year and is employed on a part-time, short-term contract. She has become a vital team member. She provides Prevention Promotion and Preparation (PPP) talks in the Midwife Obstetric Unit, conducts Engagement, Assessment and Triage (EAT) sessions to women who screen positive on the mental health screen and provides counselling sessions. Her impact has already been recognised by her colleagues, the mothers she works with and the community of Hanover Park.

For her to continue, please act now to secure her position for another year.


“Wellness does not exist in isolation”

By Tyla Prinsloo

“Women’s month is a bit of dichotomy. There is both commemoration of progress and recognition of its absence. The month of August was an urgent reminder that there is a still a long way to go.

Wellness does not exist in isolation and this means that there are various opportunities with which intervention can exist. Working with the intersections of lived experience, as noted in this video, means that resilience depends on strengthening the systems that the mothers at the clinic navigate. I am encouraged by the fact that incremental shifts are emerging. By validating these shifts, much larger contributions are inevitable.”

The #C4Mothers campaign

To enable us to offer this comprehensive counselling support for mothers in Hanover Park we need to raise additional funds!

Tyla Prinsloo joined our team in February this year and is employed on a part-time, short-term contract. She has become a vital team member to provide PPP and EAT sessions and her impact has already been recognised by her colleagues, the mothers she works with and the community of Hanover Park.

For her to continue, we appeal to you to help us raise funds to secure her position for another year.

Tyla Prinsloo, Mental Health Counsellor

With your contribution, we can continue to work together with mothers and their children by providing a safe space for care and healing!

There are many ways to donate to the PMHP!

Please help us reach our target of R250.000 by using this link to

Donate online now

The mothership – from humble beginnings to thriving services (Part II)

This blog is part of our #maternalMHmatters series and #C4mothers campaign

PMHP’s investment in Maternal Mental Health in South Africa
Liesl Hermanus, PMHP Clinical Service Coordinator with HP staff (left) client (centre) and during a virtual counselling session (right)

Liesl Hermanus joined the PMHP in 2011 as part of the Hanover Park research team, having completed her psychology internship in Hanover Park through CASE (Community Action towards a Safer Environment). She holds an Honours degree in Psychology from the University of the Western Cape and is an HPCSA registered counsellor. From 2007 to 2010, Liesl served as a counsellor at the National Responsible Gambling Programme providing support to people with gambling problems and their family members. She was a school counsellor at St Anthony’s Primary School before joining the PMHP.

Returning to work in the community of Hanover Park after her internship placement appealed to Liesl, and her familiarity with the particular challenges faced by this community adds enormous value to the PMHP service located here. Liesl is a Capetonian and has a son.

In this blog post Liesl shares her reflections.

Working in the Hanover Park community ’10 years on’

I remember the day I came across the PMHP job application for a mental health officer in Hanover Park and thinking to myself “Wow, this is really something I could see myself doing”. Five years prior to that I had completed my psychology practicum through a NPO, CASE, in Hanover Park. In addition to that, my late grandfather was living at an old age home in the area and I was in and out of his place at the time. And then, my mother who is a clinical nurse practitioner, had previously worked at Hanover Park Community Health Centre. I remember I would wait for her to come home from nightshift and as soon she walked through the door, I would ask her “Who came in last night?” She always had stories for days. This was my first introduction to Hanover Park.  There were many factors pulling me back to this community. Not only had I felt a sense of familiarity with the community but also an awareness of the adversities and vulnerabilities those living in Hanover Park were facing.

I have a morning routine where I go to every department in the MOU to greet my colleagues – what a great way to start my day. Staff often have very interesting stories to share, this was generally the best part of my day. Through sharing stories about our lived experiences both inside and outside of the workspace, we came to know each other on a deeper and more personal level.

For the first few years of working in Hanover Park, I had always been warned not to go anywhere on my own and I was made to feel the area wasn’t safe. I often found it ridiculous that I was having to drive to the shop which was a stone’s throw away from the facility. Sharmaine, the health promotions officer at the MOU, often accompanied me across the road when I was feeling brave enough to walk. But there was one day Sharmaine wasn’t around and I desperately needed something from the shop. And so I decided to walk across the road on my own, something I had never done before. I saw Hanover Park in a different light this day. The culture and energy of this community was so palpable in the air. The taxi drivers and fruit vendors on the terminus all greeted me and many had recognized me from the MOU. At no point did I ever feel threatened. This was the first walk of many on the streets of Hanover Park, an experience that made me want to tell the story of those living in this community. The next few years would see me meeting so many different people and going places some wouldn’t dare. I refused to let fear stop me from experiencing this community and its people and made it my mission to change the narrative about those living on the Cape Flats, particularly men, using photography as a medium to do so. Today, I have an online profile dedicated to the community of Hanover Park, dedicated to telling the untold stories of the people living here.

I recall 2019 being a particularly hard year. The gang violence seemed worse during this time compared to previous years and the effects of working in a community where there is constant trauma seemed to have taken a toll on me. I was also supervising two psychology interns at the time in addition to running the clinical services site. I was running on empty and thought that perhaps it was time to pursue other avenues. I decided to start looking for other work. This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. Hanover Park and maternal mental health had become my life. The idea of doing anything else seemed nearly impossible but something was amiss for me, and I was no longer happy. Something needed to change.

However, instead of leaving, I successfully applied for a promotion. Now, nearly ten years later I can proudly say I am the Clinical Services Coordinator of the PMHP at Hanover Park MOU.

And then there was 2020 and Covid-19. It became obvious to me that many clients were being deeply affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown. Large numbers of clients were now facing more severe hunger and other forms of vulnerability. Pregnant women and new mothers were struggling to take care of themselves and their newborn babies without sufficient support from their families and the broader communities.

It was in the process of trying to identify organizations in Hanover Park that could possibly assist our clients with food support that I learned about Aunty Avril, the founder and director of the Alcardo Andrews Foundation. I remember the day I met Aunty Avril. It was 21 April 2020. I recall phoning her and explaining how with Covid-19 and lockdown we were seeing an increasing number of clients at Hanover Park MOU appealing for assistance with food. Without asking for anything in return, Aunty Avril agreed to accept pregnant and postnatal mommies for food support.

At this point, all I knew about Aunty Avril is that she was feeding around 600 people daily in Hanover Park. One evening I decided to Google “Avril Andrews” and couldn’t believe all the articles and videos about the amazing work she has been doing. It was the first time I learned about her son Alcardo, who was gunned down in 2016 and that the organisation was started in response to his untimely death. I learned about the “Moms Move for Justice” group initiated by Aunty Avril where she was supporting other mothers who had lost children to gang violence. There was one article in particular that caught my eye, which was published by The Daily Maverick. The heading read “Hanover Park’s safety net for the needy: We’re here because Aunty Avril is here for us”.  When lockdown was announced, Aunty Avril closed her daily feeding programme. But it wasn’t long before she started serving again. She could not ignore the calls of the many hungry people outside her home.

It is amazing thinking about how the nature of our relationship evolved over time from very professional in the beginning to that of a mother and daughter. There is one message Aunty Avril sent that will always stay with me: “I don’t have words to say how grateful I am to have met you. I lost my son four and a half years ago but I’m blessed with a daughter coming alongside and supporting me. Thank you. I appreciate you.”

As challenging as 2020 was, it was also a time of change, both personally and professionally. I had officially taken on the role of PMHP Clinical Services Coordinator, the highlight of my fifteen-year career working in mental health. I don’t know if I will be around for another ten years, but I certainly hope the PMHP will still be, continuing to support vulnerable pregnant women and mommies not only in Hanover Park but the greater South Africa.

The mothership – from humble beginnings to thriving services

This blog is part of our #maternalMHmatters series and #C4mothers campaign

PMHP’s investment in Maternal Mental Health in South Africa

Why Hanover Park?

Hanover Park is a low-income community in which the social and demographic hardships faced by women and girls increase their vulnerability to common mental health conditions, especially during pregnancy.

Around 6600 women and girls attend the Midwife Obstetric Unit (MOU) every year, yet no dedicated mental health support service was available when we started our services in 2011. By locating a maternal mental health service in Hanover Park MOU, we were able to serve a broader range of beneficiaries from the greater Klipfontein Sub-district who access this site for maternity care. These communities are among the most disadvantaged of the Cape Flats.

Image: Typical low-cost Apartheid-era council flats in Hanover Park

Women live in fear of the volatile gang violence on the streets, where shootings and crossfire deaths are regular occurrences. At the same time, they frequently experience violence in their own homes. With low-socio-economic status, it is extremely difficult for these women to exercise agency over their situation in their homes and on the street.

Our own peer-reviewed research shows that one-third of the women for whom we provide counselling, experience violence in their homes – at the hands of their partners or other members of the household.

The PMHP response

The PMHP received support from Truworths Social Involvement Trust for the construction and furnishing of a three-roomed clinic building with garden at our Hanover Park site on the premises of the Community Health Centre (CHC).

Here, we provide mental health screening, individual counselling and follow-up care for women attending the adjacent Midwife Obstetric Unit at the CHC. Our mental health counsellor – now clinical coordinator – Liesl Hermanus, has been with us for 10 years and is well integrated in to the CHC setting and local community.

Hanover Park in pictures: from the folder storage room to our HP counselling garden

Prior to the construction of our building, mental health counselling took place in a folder storage room.
From construction site to opening of the PMHP HP counselling site

On March 2012, the PMHP unveiled its new building. We were honoured to have UCT Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, as our Guest of Honour. In his speech, he acknowledged the PMHP for serving the University’s ‘core commitment to being a socially responsive Afropolitan university’.

Left to right: PMHP Director Dr Simone Honikman, Thabisa Xhalisa and Sharon Kleintjes (Board of Advisors) and then UCT Vice-Chancellor Dr. Max Price

Since then, the garden has been transformed and cared for by our Maintenance Assistant Godfrey Abrahams.

PMHP Maternal Support Service

Initially, the counselling service at Hanover Park operated through our mental health screening tool development study. This research resulted in the development of a brief, validated tool for depression, anxiety and suicidality which has been incorporated into the Maternity Case Records (the national standard booklet of maternity stationery).

Since then, the PMHP provides individual, face-to-face counselling by trained counsellors. The counsellors assess each client and adopts a flexible approach to suit individual needs. These interventions may include containment, psycho-education, bereavement counselling, debriefing of traumatic incidents, relaxation and breathing exercises, couple and family counselling, as well as suicide and impulse risk management. The PMHP maintains a continuum of care for clients into the postnatal period.

In 2020, to augment the PMHP service, we added a part-time, junior-level counsellor, to Engage, Assess and Triage (EAT) all screen-positive women into low-intensity or high-intensity care, according to their needs.
Low-intensity care involves counselling facilitated by the junior counsellor while high-intensity care involves counselling and psychotherapeutic interventions from the more experienced, professional counsellor.

The aim of this stepped-care approach is to ensure greater intervention coverage of the women attending the MOU. This, combined with distance-based digital support (Skype, WhatsApp and telephone), established during the COVID-19 pandemic, is described in the new PMHP service flow diagram below:

PMHP Adapted Service Diagram

When we care for mothers, we really do care for the future

by Tyla Prinsloo

My journey with the Perinatal Mental Health Project has felt surreal. Counselling expectant mothers has such a beautiful generational nuance. This is all the more heightened working in Hanover Park, because this encounter asks for the opportunity to facilitate peace. I feel I have been invited into a sincere space where expectant mothers are giving themselves permission to exhale, in a context that demands perpetual survival. A meaningful respite. This kind of interaction is so monumental. By facilitating her mental health journey, I am transcending that individual relationship and gently holding space for her relationship with herself and her baby. 

I was born at 26 weeks and working with pregnant mothers is symbolic to me. The remarkable way in which the world works that facilitated this full-circle experience is beyond me. This gestational landmark is but a run-of-the-mill checkpoint yet seeing moms progress beyond this point is somehow victorious. I feel truly honoured to have represented a compassionate voice, empathic ear and trusting companion during a time where mothers needed it most.  

In the below video, Tyla shares her experience at the PMHP thus far:

For her to continue this important work, we appeal to you to help us raise funds to secure her position for another year!

Follow the #C4Mothers hashtag and check our website to see how you can support us: https://pmhp.za.org/counsellors-for-mothers/

Meet the counsellors

Liesl Hermanus

Liesl holds an Honours Degree in Psychology, is an HPCSA registered counsellor and joined the PMHP in 2011.

Having a newborn baby requires an enormous amount of time and energy, and when you have mothers experiencing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, it can make caring for a baby extremely hard. We know that when mothers feel supported and cared for, they are more likely to care for and nurture their babies. I see that as part of our role – making sure pregnant women and new mothers feel supported. The best part of this work is being able to observe mothers engaging with their babies, while holding in the back of my mind their own experiences with mothering and parenting. It gives me such joy to see our clients take care of their mental health in order for them to be as well as they can be.

Thanya April

Thanya holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling and Psychology and joined the Clinical Services team in 2020.

I was completing my second year of studies when I joined the PMHP as their administrator. At the time, my interest was in child psychology and I had no idea that I would join the clinical services team. Two years later, it was only during my first pregnancy that my interest in perinatal mental health was sparked. All mothers deserve to be supported during their pregnancy and beyond. In turn, all children deserve mothers who are psychologically healthy. This knock-on effect is what makes me passionate about what we are doing at the PMHP.

Tyla Prinsloo

Tyla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and joined the PMHP in 2021.

Maternal mental health means contributing to a healthier, more grounded society. The impact of working with a mother extends beyond the counselling space and reaches families and communities. This ripple effect means that generational wellness is well within our reach. I am passionate about working with mothers because I want peace to be a tangible reality and not a lofty ideal.

Tyla Prinsloo joined our team in February this year and is employed on a part-time, short-term contract. She has become a vital team member to provide PPP and EAT sessions and her impact has already been recognised by her colleagues, the mothers she works with and the community of Hanover Park.

For her to continue, we appeal to you to help us raise funds to secure her position for another year!

Follow the #C4Mothers hashtag and check our website to see how you can support us: https://pmhp.za.org/counsellors-for-mothers/

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