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

International Women’s Day: Understanding Women’s Mental Health

International Women's Day 2019: Understanding Women's Health

International Women’s Day is marked each year on March 8. This year’s theme is #BalanceForBetter, and as we observe this day, it is only prudent that we address women’s mental health. With more clarity about women’s mental health, it is then possible to address women’s needs in a better way.

There is no health without mental health. In marking International Women’s Day, this provides an excellent chance to address the difference between men and women as far as mental health is concerned.

Gender and Women’s Mental Health

Mental illness affects both men and women, often interfering with one’s ability to lead a full life. While the general rates of mental illness are similar for men and women, there are unique gender-based differences in terms of how the mental illnesses manifest.

According to a report by WHO, gender is a key factor in mental health. Over the years, the significant burden of mental illness has been highlighted more that the gender-specific factors surrounding the same.

Read More: #PPDMyStory – One Kenyan Mom’s story and how she got help

Gender is a critical element because it establishes the differences between men’s and women’s control over their vulnerability to particular mental health risks. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rates of common mental illnesses – anxiety, depression and psychosomatic symptoms.

Gender differences in terms of mental illness

Research shows that the three common mental illnesses affect 1 in every 3 people. Depression for instance, is twice as common in women as it is in men. There is a reason for this – the symptoms of depression and anxiety are directly related to interlinked factors. These factors include gender-based roles, societal expectations and life stressors.

To put this in perspective, consider the following gender specific risks that affect more women than they do men:

  • Gender Based Violence (GBV)
  • Sexual violence
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Poor pay (and in light of this, the global pay gap between men and women)
  • Pregnancy and complications arising thereof

Read More: Postpartum PTSD: When moms experience trauma during childbirth

It is important to clarify that this is not a battle between men and women. We cannot be blind to the fact in Kenya, men are more likely to die by suicide than women. A survey carried out by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that 421 cases of suicide were reported in 2017. Out of these cases, 330 of the suicides reported were by men.

Why the gender-based differences in terms of mental health?

The fact that most women take up responsibilities in caring for families and running their households seems to contribute significantly to this gender-based difference. For some, this comes at a steep cost when you consider the time and energy that goes into running households, a labour which, for the most part goes unpaid. This takes a huge toll on women’s mental health and financial status.

Read More: The Invisibleness of Stay-At-Home Motherhood

Add to this some of the challenges that women face at the workplace, particularly in male-dominated fields and it is easy to see the need for gender equality. But this does not, and should not take away from the need to promote women’s mental health.

How can women take care of their mental health?

As we celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme #BalanceForBetter, it is an opportune reminder that behind every woman playing her role in society, is a human being whose physical, emotional and mental well-being matters. Mental health is at the core of our well-being.

Below are some tips to help care for your mental health.

Take care of your physical health

Poor physical health increases the risk of mental illness. This is why mental health and physical health should not be thought of as separate entities. What is good for the body is good for the mind. Make sure to have a balanced diet, get adequate sleep and engage in physical activity.

Maintain healthy supportive relationships

Maintaining healthy relationships is key to a woman’s mental wellbeing. These relationships not only offer support, they also provide much needed stability in the midst of life’s daily challenges.

Create boundaries

Societal expectations placed on women sometimes make it difficult to draw a distinction between different aspects of life. To improve your mental health, it is important to create boundaries between your professional and home life. This allows you to plug into your social networks and enjoy interests outside the workplace and at home.

Practice selfcare

It is said that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first before taking care of others. Whether that is staying indoors over the weekend, practising affirmations, cutting out toxic friendships or simply unplugging from the internet. Read More on selfcare here.

Be aware of the symptoms of mental illness

Awareness is an important part of caring for your mental health. Knowing what symptoms to look out for is key to help with your mental wellbeing, especially because one’s mental health will vary throughout their life.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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