Blog Archives

Bringing mental health of mothers into the spotlight in Africa

In most societies, mothers are the primary providers of care to young children. This is a demanding task and the mental health of a mother is not only essential to her well-being, but that of her child’s physical health, nutrition and psychological well-being. However, most child development programmes do not adequately address maternal mental health.

Recent research has shown that about 20% of mothers in developing countries experience some form of mental health problems during or after childbirth. The United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres has recently acknowledged that the issue of mental health remains a largely neglected issue and announced the UN’s commitment to “working with partners to promote full mental health and well-being for all”.

Moreover, professionals in the field are pointing out that the mental health of mothers is critical to the success of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on health, nutrition and gender equality (SDG 3, 2 and 5).

In South Africa, the rate of pregnant and postnatal mothers suffering from common mental disorders (depression and/or anxiety) can reach up to one in three. Many of them are poor, come from disadvantaged communities and face many obstacles in accessing services and care.

Across Africa, the majority of women experiencing challenges to their mental health during the perinatal period (pregnancy and up to one year after the birth) are also exposed to gender-based violence, economic and gender inequalities, physical illnesses (including HIV), complications of childbirth and the stresses of childcare. Suicide has been identified as one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide.

Unfortunately, health care systems in most African countries are not equipped to deal with the complex health and social challenges faced by most mothers. With competing physical health priorities and constrained resources, mental health care remains seriously neglected.

To challenge the status-quo and to improve the mental health of mothers in Africa, a group of individuals and organisations are working together in the newly established African Alliance for Maternal Mental Health (AAMMH).

AAMMH believes that a multi-sectoral approach is needed to tackle the causes of poor maternal mental health in Africa. The alliance calls for the integration of existing evidence-based interventions for the detection, prevention and treatment of maternal mental health problems into reproductive and child health programmes, supported by mental health services with specialist expertise.

This call for action is very close to the PMHP’s mission to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively in low-resource settings. We have thus become involved with the Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health (GAMMH) over the past year since its formation and are now a proud founding partner of its first regional off-shoot, the AAMMH.

Together with colleagues in Malawi, we have been preparing for the upcoming launch on the 19 June in Lilongwe, Malawi. Prior to the launch, we will conduct a training workshop with health care providers and managers in maternal, mental and child health. On the launch day itself, we will be delivering a keynote address sharing the experience of the PMHP and will also be conducting a workshop towards establishing strategies for working partnerships across sectors for maternal mental health.

We hope our experience and work in South Africa, and in other low and middle-income countries, will contribute to the development and growth of this pan-African advocacy initiative. At the same time, we look forward to collaborating and learning from advocates, practitioners, trainers and researchers across Africa to strengthen the work we do in South Africa.


The African Alliance for Maternal Mental Health (AAMMH) is part of the Global Alliance of Maternal Mental Health and works in close collaboration with the Marcé Society African Regional Group.

AAMMH will be officially launched in Lilongwe, Malawi on 19 June 2018. You can follow the event by using the hashtag #AAMMH #GAMMH

Read more about aims and objectives of the AAMMH here.


Mom and Mind Podcast on Maternal Mental Health

New podcast series focuses on mental health aspects of becoming pregnant, being pregnant and early parenthood.

In this podcasts Dr Kat is telling real stories from moms and family members who made it from struggling to wellness. She also interviews experts and advocates who work for moms and families to get the help they need.

One of these experts and mom who made it from struggling to wellness is the amazing Dr Wendy Davis. She shares her story about being a specialist and not realising she was suffering from postpartum depression.
“It’s like being in the middle of an earthquake and being a geo physicist, who studies earthquakes, and not knowing it’s an earthquake. That would be terrifying.”

Mom and Mind

Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of Mom & Mind Podcast for free on iTunes: Mom & Mind Podcast With Dr. Kat

PMHP Mid-Year report: hot off the press

We are pleased to share our 2014 Mid-Year report with our partners, friends and supporters. 

This reports highlights some of the key achievements in our four programmes:

Clinical Services,
Teaching and Training,
Research &
Advocacy and Communications.


You can Download the PDF version here.
Previous reports can be downloaded on our report pages here

PMHP at the Artscape Women’s Humanity Arts Festival

The PMHP will celebrate Women’s Day and Women’s Month, the 8th Women’s Humanity Arts Festival

at Artscape Theatre Centre on 9 August 2014

The theme of the 2014 festival is HUMANITY and the objective this year is to celebrate and salute those women who actively strive to better their own lives and the lives of countless other women in our society today. The festival includes, as it has for the past seven years, the disabled community, the disenfranchised community and women and men from all walks of life. The Artscape Women’s Humanity Arts Festival is Artscape’s response to highlight the lack of “humanity” which marginalized groups face on a daily basis in South Africa, with particular emphasis on women and the disabled.

The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) is honoured to take part in this very important event to highlight the impact of mental health on the well-being and development of women and their babies.

On the 9th August, Dr. Simone Honikman, the PMHP founder and director will host a discussion together with one of the projects former clients, who works as a psychologist in the HIV sector.

Furthermore the PMHP will host a display table providing information about our project.

About the Discussion 

Why Maternal Mental Health matters?

Pregnancy and the postnatal period is a psychologically distressing period for many women, particularly those facing social challenges like poverty, gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of common maternal mental disorders (including depression and anxiety) in low-income communities in South Africa is very high. One out of three women in South Africa suffers from depression during or after pregnancy. When left untreated, mental illness can contribute to maternal mortality, poor maternal and child health, and consequently, negative development outcomes. In response to this problem, the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) was started in 2002. The mission of the PMHP is to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively at scale in low resource settings.

Simone Honikman, founder and director of the PMHP, will present on maternal mental health as an integral part of maternal health!


Highlights of the Festival

Stage Productions

Hatched is an autobiographical work created by the award-winning dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza performed at the Artscape Arena on 6 and 8 August at 20:30 and 17:00 respectively. Hatched reflects on Nyamza’s life as a mother and as an artist. It seeks to convey deeply personal and challenging issues of culture, tradition and a woman’s evolving sexuality within the customary rites and rituals of marriage, until she realizes her true identity. Performing alongside Mamela is Amkele Mandla. Ticket price R80.

Tannie Dora Goes Bos is a hilarious, dark murder mystery offering the perfect combination of comedy, drama and suspense from first time playwright Warren Meyer and acclaimed director Jeremeo Le Cordeur (Dress to Impress; Pizza’s Here; Risk; February 14th). Taking to the stage at the Artscape Arena on 6 and 9 August at 18:00 and 12:00 respectively, it’s an open and shut case for the Franschhoek Police Department when Theadora Louw, known to all as “Tannie Dora”, confesses to the murder of Willem Johannes. The cast includes Andre Lombard, Anton Jeftha, Dean van Der Ventel, Khalil Kathrada and Kim Syster. Ticket price R80.

Rondomskrik is the story of Antjie Fortuin, a teenager with all the potential to work her way to a better life. It’s a story that plays out daily on the Cape Flats, in Delft, Soweto, Bellville or Grassy Park. Antjie has to work with her talents but also has to deal with the very real dangers of violence, drugs, alcohol and rape. The cast includes Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Lee-Ann van Rooi, Crystal Donna Roberts, and Richard September. A must see on 7 and the 8 August at 20:00. Ticket price R80.

I Stand Corrected is a powerful story told through haunting and sometimes absurdly comical physical theatre, with songs, dance, music and drama. The production is an artistic response to homophobic and transphobic, hate rape and murder as well as a beautiful, uplifting memorial that takes place at the Artscape Arena on 7, 8 and 9 August at 20:15. Created by Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza, I Stand Corrected is the first collaboration ever by these two outstanding international artists. I Stand Corrected was nominated for six London Off West End Theatre awards including best director, best play and best choreography. Ticket price R80.

The other productions that fall under the festival umbrella are Three’s Company ballet production at the Opera House on 8 August at 19:30 and 9 August at 14:00 and 19:30 respectively; R125 – R200. Divalicious Dames – 15 and 16 August at 20:15 at the Artscape Arena.


Freedom’s Child was born out of a need to pay homage to one of South Africa’s greatest literary activists, James Matthews – marrying poetry and jazz on 9 August at 15:00 at the Artscape Arena. Melanie Scholtz, Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2010, thrills audience as she uses James’ words on her album “Freedom’s Child” (2011) produced by Mark Fransman and acclaimed British saxophonist Soweto Kinch as well as an array of South Africa’s finest jazz musicians. The album comes to life with Melanie Scholtz, Mark Fransman, Brydon Bolton, Kevin Gibson, Justin Bellairs and of course, James Matthews. Ticket price R80.

The festival finale is a dazzling concert on 9 August at 20:00, Women in Song, directed by Sophia Foster.  Featuring artists are Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, Zanne Stapelberg, Vicky Sampson, Sarah Theron, Fancy Galada, Zelda Benjamin, Tina Schouw and world-renowned poet, Diana Ferrus.  The concert will also feature the South African Circle of Dance Academy directed by Gladys Bullock.   The Musical Director for the event is Janine Neethling. Ticket price R100.

Book launches:

Books to be launched at the festival include “Karoo Kitchen” by Sydda Essop, “Forgiveness” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Rev Mpho Tutu, and the 2nd edition publication by poet, novelist and political activist James Matthews entitled “Age is a beautiful phase”. The festival offers stimulating conversation, the “Forgiveness” book discussion takes place on 9 August from 11:00 – 12:00. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev Mpho Tutu explain the four-step process of forgiveness – Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship – as well as to offer meditations, exercises and prayers to guide the reader along the way.

Other events:

Meet the Woman Zone team and hear Philippa Kabali – Kagwa’s story at the 13 women storytelling session Friday 8 August at 17:30.

CAPE TOWN’S WOMEN ARE WALKING…from St George’s Cathedral to Artscape to celebrate Women’s Day, (August 9) to unify the Mother City, to mark the achievements of women and to claim their place in Cape Town. All are invited to participate in this Walk of unity, solidarity and celebration. The Women’s Humanity Walk, coordinated by Woman Zone, Artscape and SAFFI (SA Faith and Family Institute), will be addressed and blessed by Interfaith leaders at St George’s Cathedral and will end at Artscape to coincide with the commencement of the Woman’s Day events of the Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival. Details or facebook: womanzonect

The festival will also host a visual arts exhibition by Dawn De Grass and a photo exhibition, “Every Mother has hopes and dreams for her Children” by Clive Gray.

Artscape paves the way for a powerful woman, Karen Smit who is a businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother with a disability who will launch a website, WAND (Women’s Achievement Network for Disability) on 7 August.

Workshops hosted at the festival:

The South African Women in Construction Western Cape – 9 August at 09:45 – 11:00

Know Your Rights Law Workshops – Southern Suburbs Legal Advice Centre – 9 August:

Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences: 10h00-10h35

Labour Laws in respect of Disabled persons: 10h50-11h25

Children and the Age: 11h40 – 12h15

Consumer Rights/Protection: 12h30-13h00

Health screenings for blood glucose and blood pressure will be conducted by the TB/HIV Care Association and CANSA will be taking care of the breast screenings for all festival-goers.

The Perinatal Mental Health Project talk takes place on 9 August at 10:30 in the Chandelier Foyer. PMHP is an independent initiative based at the UCT, as a founding partner of the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health. The PMHP provides counseling services and builds capacity amongst health workers to provide support, screening and appropriate referral for pregnant women and girls experiencing psychological distress. They actively address the mental health problems associated with gender based violence, teen pregnancy, HIV, substance misuse, refugee status and impaired bonding through our clinical work, through training of healthcare staff, through pragmatic research projects and through advocacy work.

The Women’s Hope Education and Training (WHEAT) Trust is once again hosting an award ceremony in celebration of, and to acknowledge the grassroots women leaders throughout the Western Cape on 7 August.

Book tickets through Computicket

Healthy women and children at the heart of sustainable development #PMNCHLive #EveryNewborn @WHO

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO)

Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Forum (PMNCH)

takes place from 30. June – 01 July in South Africa

Graça Machel returned to her active role as a global advocate for women’s and children’s rights as chairperson of PMNCH.

She appealed to global leaders to make efforts to ensure that every pregnant mother and newborns lived.

“We need to have a world in which there are no preventable deaths of newborns or stillbirths, where ever pregnancy is wanted, every birth is celebrated and mothers, babies and children thrive and reach their social and economic potential”, she added.

Follow the conversation on Twitter under #EveryNewborn and #PMNCHLive

Read more about the Partnership Forum here

Listen in to the LiveStream here


Circles of Support – grab a seat

Join the `Circles of Support` advocacy and fundraising campaign of the Perinatal Mental Health Project. You will be delighted by a range of performances by friends of the organisation such as the hilarious Nik Rabinowitz, enchanting singer Aviva Pelham, comedienne Anne Hirsch, iKapa Dance Theatre and other talented artists.

Grab a ticket for only R150  on Computicket

join us on 16 August @ 7.30 pm

at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town


All proceeds from the ticket sales will go to support UCT`s award-winning Perinatal Mental Health Project, which works to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively at scale in low resource settings.


Communications and Advocacy Intern

We are looking for an energetic intern who wants to join us for our grande

Fundraising and Advocacy Event

in August.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get experience in communications, event management, social media advocacy, fundraising and much more


you fit the criteria,

can dedicate your time between May and August and

are in Cape Town during that time!

Please read the full description below, write to us if you think we are looking exactly for you or forward to a friend who might be the perfect match!

Intern requirements

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