Blog Archives

Suicidal thoughts during pregnancy

Perinatal depression and anxiety are serious mental health problems and are among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide!

Pregnant women are at higher risk for suicidal ideation and behaviours compared to the general population.

Suicide has been identified as one of the major contributors to the global mortality burden and there is a growing concern over the increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour among pregnant women.

Studies in low- and middle-income countries put the rate of maternal death due to suicide at somewhere between 0.65% and 3.55%. In such cases, risk factors include poverty, lack of support, lack of trust in health systems and coexisting mental illnesses.

Suicidal thoughts experienced during pregnancy can continue beyond the initial postpartum period, affecting the well-being of both mother and child.

More about pregnancy and suicidal ideation in our infographic


Mental illness among displaced, migrant and refugee women

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently 24.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers in the world (UNHCR 2015).

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Mental health among refugees is increasingly being discussed and researchers acknowledge:

Refugees are a vulnerable people.

We have found that uncertain refugee status is a key factor contributing to mental illness in pregnant women. Women with uncertain refugee status are particularly vulnerable to maternal mental illness. Psychological trauma, associated with political conflict, displacement, violence, loss of loved ones, torture, rape and poverty contribute to poorer general maternal health.

For more information see our Issue Brief and for a quick visual overview see our infographic below.


Perinatal mental health: Fathers – the (mostly) forgotten parent

dads mental healthIntroduction

The importance of parental mental health as a determinant of infant and child outcomes is increasingly acknowledged. Yet, there is limited information regarding paternal mental health during the perinatal period. The aim of this review is to summarise existing clinical research regarding paternal mental health in the perinatal period in various contexts, and its possible impact on infant development.


Men are at increased risk of mental health problems during the transition to fatherhood, as well as during the perinatal period. Paternal mental health during the perinatal period has been shown to impact on their child’s emotional and behavioural development. However, research addressing the needs of fathers with mental illness and the impact of their illness on their infant and family has been limited.


A paradigm shift is required, from a focus on women following childbirth and women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders to a broader family perspective with the focus firmly on parent-infant relationships. This paradigm shift needs to involve greater research into the fathering role and paternal mental illness during the perinatal period, including further studies into risk factors, impact on the family system, and the most appropriate form of intervention and service provision.

The full research review is available on Wiley Online Library

In our resource library, you can find information for future fathers in four different languages

EnglishisiXhosa • Afrikaans • French

DignityInMind – mental health campaign launch



9 September 2016

Last year for the first time, organisations from across the Western Cape came together to pool their efforts in raising awareness for mental health care during World Mental Health Month (October). Spearheaded by the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health (CPMH), this year’s collaboration brings together mental health organisations from across the entire country to share their ideas and support one another’s activities for an even bigger campaign and an online hub where information and events are shared.

This year’s World Mental Health Day awareness campaign will kick off early with a blog series beginning on World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th of September, followed by several high-profile events and will draw to a close at the end of October.

Throughout the coming weeks, blog posts by mental health service users, providers and researchers will be published on the campaign website, covering a great variety of mental health issues. The aim of the blog series and the campaign as a whole is to promote conversation around mental wellbeing, how to seek help and how to recognise the first signs of mental ill health in a loved one. This reflects the international theme for World Mental Health Day 2016, “Mental Health First Aid”.

In addition to offering helpful content regarding mental health online, campaign partners will be present at this year’s Hope Hike & Bike, organised by the Ithemba Foundation. The goal of the Hope Hike & Bike is to raise awareness of depression and to raise funds for academic research this field. This year the Cape Town Hope Hike & Bike will take place at Blaauwklippen Wine Farm in Stellenbosch on 2 October and the Pretoria event on the 9th at Van Gaalen’s in Skeerpoort.

Another highlight will be a mental health documentary film festival, which will be hosted by the Labia Theatre in Cape Town on World Mental Health Day (10 October). Short films and documentaries will be showcased in two programmes throughout the day and includeDoc-U-Mentally: Last Doctors Standing by Francois Wahl, Voices from the Edge by PRIME and Caring for Mothers by the PMHP. Tickets are R40 and are available at the Labia.

Cape Mental Health will also spoil Western Cape supporters with its annual International Kite Festival in Muizenberg on the 29th and 30th of October.

We invite mental health care service users and their loved ones as well as mental health care workers and organisations to join us by sharing their stories on our blog, adding their WMHD events to our website and supporting the efforts of all our partners, as we spread the message of #DignityInMind

How to get involved

  1. Send us your blog post contribution to the email mentioned below.
  2. Let us know about mental health-related events taking place in your area and we’ll share it online.
  3. Attend the Hope Hike & Hope Bike, the documentary film festival and the Kite Festival, as well as other events advertised on the website
  4. Join the conversation online and spread awareness for mental health with the hashtag #DignityinMind.

The Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health (CPMH) grew out of a shared vision and commitment to collaboration between members of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and the Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University (SU).

Contact details

To contribute content, share an event or for press queries and interviews, email us on, give us a call on 021 650 2061 or visit

This year’s initiative is possible thanks to the following partners:

Adding their voices to this year’s call for dignity in mental health, are the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) from UCT, theProgramme for Improving Mental Health Care (PRIME) from UCT, Mental Health Innovation Network Africa (MHIN Africa) from UCT,Cape Mental Health (CMH), the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), RuReSA & the Rural Mental Health Campaign (RMHC), LifeLine Western Cape, Project Khuluma, the Ithemba Foundation & the Mental Health Information Centre (MHIC).

Bush Radio is a proud media partner of the #DignityInMind Mental Health Awareness Campaign.

Providing psychosocial support for HIV positive adolescents in South Africa using mobile technology

There is growing awareness that HIV/AIDS affected and infected adolescents may be at increased risk of mental health problems and distress. Depression and anxiety are associated with treatment non-compliance, which can have a significant impact on health status.

Moreover, HIV positive adolescents’ support structures can be weakened by challenging home environments and stigma in the community.

The goal of Khuluma is to provide psychosocial support for HIV positive adolescents in South Africa using mobile technology.


Read more about the the Khuluma model on the Mental Health Innovation Network pages.

Maternal depression – the nature and scale of the problem

Maternal depression has a number of negative consequences for the woman herself.

These include loss of functioning (inability to perform everyday tasks or social roles), loss of interest in self-care and child care, behaviour that affects other health conditions (for example, poor adherence to antiretroviral treatment for HIV), and risk of suicide or self-harm.

A global systematic review reports that between 5 per cent and 14 per cent of women report suicide ideation during pregnancy or the postnatal period (Lindahl, Pearson and Colpe, 2005). Most suicides happen in the postnatal period (Gentile, 2011) and the presence of perinatal depression predicts suicide (Lindahl, Pearson and Colpe, 2005). Suicide now surpasses maternal mortality as the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 years, globally (Petroni, Patel and Patton, 2015).

In this installment of the Health & Education Advice & Resource Team’s (HEART) Reading Pack series, professor Crick Lund summarizes the state of knowledge about maternal depression across cultures.

To screen or not to screen

Screening is the entry point to mental health care.

We recently produced an advisory for primary level screening of mothers for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and behaviour in South Africa.

When health providers are not necessarily skilled in other forms of detection and when disorders are not clinically obvious, brief screening is a critical step towards providing mental health support for vulnerable women.


Read the recommendations on our website.

Another recent study found that women who underwent regular maternal depression screening are more likely to avail of mental healthcare services before, during and after pregnancy.

Read this related article Maternal Depression Screening Is Causing More Women To Avail Of Mental Healthcare Services
in the Parent Herald

Why fathers (and mothers) need paternity leave in South Africa

 On the occasion of the first International Fathers Mental Health Day, 20 June, Wessel Van Den Berg (Sonke Gender Justice) reflects on celebrating the unpaid care work mothers do, and how to encourage the dads who are already sharing the care.

“The recently released 2015 General Household Survey revealed a mixed bag for our children. There was a commendable increase in the number of five-year-olds enrolled in school, but at home the picture isn’t so rosy.

According to the survey, 63% of fathers do not live at home with their biological children. This number has remained more or less the same for the past decade. The fact is that there is a massive gap in father’s presence in children’s lives. And this is a problem.

The most obvious is that this may indicate less financial support provided by fathers to families. But there’s another reason fathers should be encouraged to be present and active in their children’s lives. It allows women and girls to achieve their full potential. That’s right: women and girls.”


Source: Why fathers (and mothers) need paternity leave in South Africa – Sonke Gender Justice

Access to mental health care is essential for refugees and migrants #WorldRefugeeDay

Psychological trauma, associated with political conflict, displacement, violence, loss of loved ones, torture, rape, dispossession and poverty contribute to poorer general maternal health. Discrimination and xenophobia can further exacerbate existing traumas and mental anguish. Cultural norms surrounding pregnancy and the lack of family and other support structures at this vulnerable time contributes to social isolation, exclusion and psychological distress.

“Loneliness, loss of identity, poverty and trauma are the main stressors that we see. Many refugee women have no one to talk to, and pregnancy makes them more vulnerable.”  Charlotte Mande-Ilunga, counsellor PMHP

The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) has found that refugee status is a key factor contributing to mental illness in pregnant women.

Read more on our findings in this Issue Brief.


According to the latest report by The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) a record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, many of them fleeing wars only to face walls, tougher laws and xenophobia as they reach borders.

In South Africa more than a million asylum seekers are waiting for their applications to be processed at the end of 2015 – the highest number in the world.


Suffering out loud – speaking out to fight #mentalhealthstigma

Unwell and unashamed

The stigma of mental illness is under attack by sufferers, who are coming out publicly and defiantly.
Aided by social media, sufferers are speaking out about having an illness and seeking treatment.

Read the encouraging Washington Post article about fighting the stigma around mental health here.

speaking out loud

Source: Washington Post

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