The 2019 PSI Conference, Portland, OR

2019 PSI Conference in Portland

Every year, Postpartum Support International (PSI) holds a conference that brings together people in the perinatal mental health field. By definition, the perinatal period refers to the period of time from conception up to a year after birth. As such, anyone who supports mothers and families during this period is an important part of the perinatal mental health field.

This year’s conference was the 32nd of its kind. We are grateful to have had a chance to attend the 2019 PSI Conference. As Kenya coordinator for PSI, this was a great opportunity to meet, learn and network with others in this field. The conference, held between June 26th and June 30th at the Hilton Downtown in Portland OR, brought together more than 700 attendees from all over the USA, as well as four organizations represented from Africa which included Postpartum Depression Kenya (PPDKenya), Perinatal Services (KE), SPANS (Zimbabwe) and Postpartum Support Network – PSN (Nigeria). This was made possible by the Perinatal Action Fund which provides conference scholarships for people of colour.

The conference began with a 2-day certificate course that covered Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Components of Care. The next three days included expert keynotes, breakout sessions, a poster session the Hickman Research Award and the Kruckman White Award. The conference came to an end on Sunday with the advanced PMH psychotherapy training.

Above images courtesy of Ivy Shih Leung

Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care

This 2-day training covered various components of care for mothers and families in the perinatal period, and was facilitated by Birdie Gunyon and Pec Indman.

The training covered topics that included the full spectrum of PMADs (that is Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders), the screening process, cultural relevance, the importance of social support as well as resources available for those in the perinatal period. It was an eye-opening training that gave much insight into ways to improve our Elimisha Mama program in partnering hospitals.

Read More: The Elimisha Mama Program for pregnant couples and new parents

One of the highlights during this session was to know that symptoms of PMADs may present differently, with moms often saying things like:

I cannot cope.

I feel like I am a bad mom and my child could do with a better mom.

This doesn’t feel like me; I miss the old me.                                                                                                                          

I feel so alone, I don’t think motherhood is for me.

I am losing it.

This is important to note because often, mothers with an undiagnosed PMAD may not have the right words to express emotional pain.

Addressing cultural dimensions of PMADs

Cultural dimensions have a great impact in women’s perinatal mental health – and for good reason. Research shows that PMADs are a universal experience for women and families across the world. It was interesting to note, however, that there were very few studies and almost no existing data in African countries. Without this data, it becomes difficult to evaluate risk factors, create interventions or formulate policies to improve perinatal mental health. This is why Postpartum Depression Kenya is willing to partner with organizations interested in carrying out research in this field.

Read More: Here’s how you can get involved in creating awareness on maternal mental health

Still on culture, the training highlighted the need for culturally sensitive interventions and informed interactions. For this, Postpartum Depression Kenya is using the Kiswahili version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to reach moms from different communities in Kenya [source].

On Social Support

The training brought to light the importance of social support networks for mothers during the perinatal period. This support may come from partners, relatives, faith communities and support groups. To be able to provide the right support, it is vital that persons in this cpcity are well informed on perinatal mental illnesses.

KEYNOTES

The 2019 PSI Conference had three keynote speakers:

  1. Shafia Monroe, a renowned midwife and doula training whose opening keynote covered cultural competency and inclusion in perinatal mental health.
  2. Lee Cohen who is the director of the Ammon-Pinzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health in Massachusetts. His keynote covered resolved and unresolved questions in perinatal psychiatry, aptly titled ‘From Knowns to Unknowns’
  3. Trystan Reese whose keynote addressed ways to supporttransgender parents and the LGBTQ community.

Breakout sessions

Each day, after the keynotes, there were different breakout sessions to delve further into key aspects of the perinatal mental health field. Postpartum Depression Kenya was represented at a number of them, including ‘Conversations that count: Factoring in the Fathers’ (we are saying hello to Daniel Singley and Jane Honikman!), Supporting the Highly sensitive Parent by the lovely Dr. Kat Kaeni of Mom and Mind podcast, the differences between Postpartum Psychosis and OCD (and why it is important as well as Community-Based Postpartum Support Model for families by Mollie and Melenie. Each of these sessions added to our body of knowledge, and sparked new ideas on how to improve our current programs here in Kenya.

Some of the slide presentations during Dr. Kat Kaeni’s breakout session on ‘The Highly Sensitive Parent”

The Kruckman-White Award

The Kruckman-White Award is given each year in recognition of individuals or groups involved in creating awareness and providing support in the perinatal mental health field. We are so proud to have our founder, Samoina, as one of the recipients for the 2019 Kruckman-White Award.

2019 Kruckman-White Award at the 32nd PSI Conference
2019 Kruckman-White Award recipient, our founder, Samoina, pictured alongside Wendy Davis, Executive Director PSI.

Conclusion

The 32nd PSI conference was a great opportunity for our organization to learn more, make new friends and expand networks in the perinatal mental health field globally. We would like to thank the lovely Wendy Davis, Executive Director at PSI, and the team for their efforts in ensuring we attended the conference and training to better improve our work.

Call-in feature on Voice of Islam UK, and PPDKenya’s flagship project, #ElimishaMama

PPDKenya feature on Voice of Islam UK

Two weeks ago, the team at Voice of Islam UK got in touch with us to share on maternal mental health in Kenya, and the organization’s flagship project, #ElimishaMama. This feature was in honor of World Maternal Mental Health Day.

Research shows that 1 in 5 women will go through a mental illness at one point in their lives. Maternal mental illnesses range from Postpartum Depression to postpartum anxiety, PTSD and Psychosis.

Our founder, Samoina, was one of the guests during the drive time show, alongside Rosey (Founder- #PNDHour), Dr. Andrew Mayers and Lilu Wheeler. Catch the recording of that conversation below, with the interview segment beginning at 1:29:20

Samoina shared on the social stigma attached to maternal mental health in Kenya, how Elimisha Mama is helping pregnant women and new mothers in Kenya, the intersection of faith and maternal mental health as well as the role of the fathers.

We’d like to thank the production team: Ayesha Naseem, Faiza Mirza and Nudrat Qasim for creating awareness on maternal mental health.

Practical ways to get involved in Maternal Mental Health Awareness

maternal mental health matters

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. All of this month, organizations all over the world join efforts in raising awareness on maternal mental health issues so that more women will get the treatment they need, and fewer will suffer in silence. This, according to the World Maternal Mental Health Day website is so that women living with perinatal mental health conditions can get the help they need.

This has, for the most part involved organizations sharing the activities they are involved in to help women with maternal mental illnesses.

PPDKenya engagement in the #MaternalMHMatters awareness campaign

  • On social media by sharing content that highlights maternal mental health issues under the hashtags #MaternalMHMatters and #PPDKenya (Follow us on our social media pages by clicking the tabs on the top right hand side of this page)
  • Sharing personal stories of Kenyan moms who have lived with a maternal mental illness, received help and made a recovery/are recovering. Read One Kenyan mom’s story on Postpartum Depression and getting treatment through PPDKEnya (link)
  • Through Elimisha Mama, PPDKenya’s flagship project that creates awareness through psychoeducative sessions at partnering hospitals. #ElimishaMama
  • Through a photo project in partnership with Kiarii Kimani Photography, dubbed Mother’s Mind. Mother’s Mind is a project that depicts the emotions that mothers with a mental illness go through, in a bid to reduce the stigma and discrimination that comes with maternal mental illness.

How can you get involved in the maternal mental health awareness at a personal level?

Statistics show that 1 in 5 women will experience a maternal mental illness at one point in their life. To put this in perspective, in any given chama of 20 women, 4 women are at risk of a maternal mental illness. How then, can individuals get involved in creating awareness on maternal mental health? Below are practical ways in which you can join the global drive to push for better maternal mental health care and combat stigma in the community.

Get information on maternal mental illnesses.

Reading about maternal mental health allows you to educate yourself on what the illnesses are, the symptoms and treatment options available. The PPDKenya website provides resourceful information on maternal mental health, and you can read more under the ‘Blog’ section.

It is also important to know places where you can get help. PPDKenya has created a database (that we are continually adding to, so if you are a mental health care provider, please get in touch and we will add you to the database) for mental health care providers in different parts of the country. This way, we are able to refer moms and make a follow-up to help in their recovery journey.

Read More: Postpartum Depression in new dads

Talk about maternal mental health

Ask the mothers in your networks how they are really feeling. It is not enough to ask – ask and mean it. This provides mothers who have a mental illness with the chance to open up and ask for help.

Create a non-judgemental space

The stigma and shame that is associated with maternal mental illness makes it difficult for moms to speak out. Creating a non-judgemental space means you need to listen and encourage her without making assumptions. Avoid using words like ‘crazy’ ‘bad mom’ or even ‘mad woman’.

Part of creating a safe space for a mom includes reminding her that she is not alone, that maternal mental illness is not her fault and that she can make a recovery with professional help. Make an effort to check in with her regularly.

Offer practical ways to help moms who are at risk of maternal mental illness

The first few days after birth can be overwhelming for new moms. Moms who do not have support or help at home are at risk of maternal mental illness. One of the ways you can help such a mom is to offer practical help. Clearing the sink, mopping the house, folding laundry or even just babysitting so that the new mother can have a long bath worry-free are some practical ways you can help such a mom to offer support.

Read More: Moms share 5 things they wish they knew about Postpartum Depression

Share your own story

Sharing personal stories on maternal mental health is also a powerful way of creating awareness on maternal mental health. For many women who have lived with a personal experience, the lingering thought of whether it is important is always present. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), sharing one’s experience with a maternal mental illness provides connectedness with others. It also reduces societal stigma by normalizing mental illness, both online and offline. It gives a voice for those who may not be able to speak about their experiences, and this goes a long way in creating social change.

#PPDMyStory

PPDKenya started a new series called #PPDMyStory where we are inviting Kenyan moms to share their stories on maternal mental illness, treatment and the journey to recovery. Are you interested in sharing your story (whether publicly or anonymously?) Drop us an email ppdkenya@gmail.com with the Subject heading PPDMyStory.

Other ways to get involved include volunteering with organizations that share on maternal mental health (we are looking for volunteers!), participating in maternal mental health forums and sharing resourceful information within our networks.

World Maternal Mental Health Day 2019

World Maternal Mental Health Dy 2019

Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day 2019.

World Maternal Mental Health Day WMMHD is observed on the first Wednesday of May each year. The day has been in existence since 2016 when a group of maternal mental health advocates, persons with lived experience, mental health care professionals and even academicians came together to bring awareness to maternal mental health.

The main message around WMMHD is that Maternal Mental Health Matters. Everyone needs to know about maternal mental health, the signs and symptoms to look out for as well as where to get treatment and support.

Every year, organizations from all over the world join effort in creating awareness about maternal mental health. This is mainly done through localized events and a collective social media campaign under the #WMMHD and #MaternalMHMatters.

PPDKenya marking World Maternal Mental Health Day

Did you know that 1 in 5 new mothers will get a maternal mental illness? These conditions will often go untreated, largely due to lack of awareness and poor access to treatment and support. The truth is that Maternal Mental illness does not discriminate. Women, regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, religion, orientation and culture can get a maternal mental illness. Increasing this awareness goes a long way in helping affected women get the help they need.

As one of the global partners, Postpartum Depression Kenya is delighted to join the social media push to sensitize the community on maternal mental health and why it matters. By joining this campaign, PPDKenya contributes to the global effort to ensure that more women get professional medical help, and fewer suffer in silence.

How PPDKenya is getting involved

This year, PPDKenya is involved in a number of ways:

  • Through partnering with Weza Dada for the maternal mental health forum (happened on 27.04.2019) See more images here.
  • Through the Elimisha Mama Project at Akshar Healthcare Facility, read about it here.
  • Through a photography project that depicts what Postpartum Depression looks like.

Postpartum Depression is the most common childbirth complication

Postpartum Depression is the most common maternal mental illness, affecting 1 in every 7 new mothers. In Kenya and other low income countries, the rates are thought to be higher, largely due to low awareness and stigma associated with mental illness. In addition to this, mothers who experience gender-based violence, sexual abuse, lack of support (both from the family and the community) are at increased risk of maternal mental illness. Early intervention and treatment for these illnesses is key for both mother and child.

Read More: Can I get Postpartum Depression after the first year?

As we seek to raise awareness this month (and beyond), we are cognizant of the struggles that many Kenyan mothers face. The stigma associated with (maternal) mental illness makes it harder for affected mothers to speak out and get the help they need. For this year’s WMMHD, one of the ways PPDKenya is observing the day is through the use of photography.

The photo project is the brainchild of Postpartum Depression Kenya and Kiarii Kimani Photography. Kiarii Kimani is one of PPDKenya’s partners, and whose brilliant portfolio speaks for itself.

“Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to all women. For some it is a struggle especially because of their psychological make-up. I feel that my images can lend a voice to getting many women psychotherapy in this case dealing with PPD,” Kiarii says.

Kiarii Kimani is passionate about mental health, and through this photo project, helps to express what mothers with Postpartum Depression go through.

Read More: This is what it feels like to have Postpartum Depression

The Mother’s Mind Photo Project

Concept: Postpartum Depression Kenya

Photography: Kiarii Kimani Photography

Model: Lilian of Kathomi Photography

Location: Event Haven

Introducing the ‘Elimisha Mama’ Program

Elimisha Mama Program by PPDKenya

Motherhood is often thought to be a magical experience. For 1 in 7 new mothers who suffer Postpartum Depression, this may not always be the case. Maternal mental illness can be very lonely and isolating.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s shortage of mental health specialists means that many mothers do not get the treatment that they need. There are just about 62 psychiatrists serving a population of 49.7 million people. These glaring gaps in the mental health sector paint a grim picture.

Gaps that exist in Kenya’s maternal mental health field

Some of the gaps that exist in Kenya’s maternal mental health include:

  • Low awareness of maternal mental health in the society
  • Stigma surrounding (maternal) mental disorders
  • Discrimination against mothers who have a mental illness, making it hard for them to reach out for help.

The ‘Elimisha Mama’ Program

‘Elimisha Mama’, Swahili for ‘Educate a Mother’ is PPDKenya’s flagship project that seeks to address these gaps. The program seeks to incorporate maternal mental health into routine antenatal and postpartum clinics. The aim of the program is to create awareness on maternal mental health as well as provide psychosocial support for moms with a mental illness.

The program takes a two-pronged approach:

  • offering psychoeducative talks during Antenatal and Postpartum Clinics
  • pregnant women and new mothers who screen positive for a maternal mental illness get psychological help. Peer supporters from PPDKenya will also offer psychosocial support onsite. Severe cases will be escalated to the hospital’s psychiatric department.

PPDKenya partnership with Akshar Healthcare Facility, Kikuyu

The Elimisha Mama program rolled out on April 3rd 2019. This was made possible following the partnership between PPDKenya and Akshar Healthcare Facility. Akshar Healthcare, formerly known as Kikuyu Nursing Home, was established in 2012. The health facility takes great pride in providing professional and compassionate care for its patients.

Akshar offers the following services:

  • out-patient and inpatient services
  • immunization
  • dental care
  • psychiatric care
  • maternity services.

The availability of maternity and psychiatric services at Akshar provides a solid foundation for Elimisha Mama.

Antenatal Clinics at the health facility run every Wednesday. Volunteers who would like to join us for Elimisha Mama can email ppdkenya@gmail.com

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