Tag: PPDMyStory

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.

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

African mom and baby, postpartum depression

We are starting a new series titled #PPDMyStory where we will be sharing life stories of moms with Postpartum Depression, their motherhood journey and how they are recovering/ recovered. This is in line with our efforts to sensitize the community on maternal mental health and to raise awareness for Postpartum Depression (PPD).

#PPDMyStory

Today’s entry comes from one of the moms who we have had in our support group sessions. She requested anonymity, so we will simply share her story as she did.

You recently had a baby, how was pregnancy?

My pregnancy had few complications. However, I enjoyed the last two trimesters because I did not experience intense morning sickness like I had been experiencing in the first trimester. In the last few weeks, I experienced some intense feelings of physical discomfort and this was made worse when I got really bad news about two weeks before I gave birth.

Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy

Your baby is 2 years old now, how has the experience been with him?

My experience with the baby has been more blissful than I thought it would have been. Initially I thought that I was never capable of loving this new human being but I have grown to learn what he likes and what he doesn’t. I have also grown to dedicate moments where we spend time together just to bond and appreciate each other’s existence on earth. Being a mother to my son is the most amazing experience ever.

A few months after birth you started feeling that something was off, that it was more than just baby blues. Please share with us about that period.

Getting sad news just two weeks to delivery made me question if I was ready to be a solo parent. It made me question my capabilities and I gradually started to feel like I had let down a small human being who had no idea of what I was going through. I gradually sunk into a state of physical numbness and emotional turmoil, and stopped enjoying activities I used to love like writing or going out with friends.

Waking up was dreadful, and during some moments I would play out thoughts of cutting my existence for good. I felt worthless. My self esteem took a plunge and I could not bring myself to work (as a freelance writer) because the voices in my head were constantly playing out situations that were far-fetched and independent of my reality.

When did you learn that it wasn’t just feeling off, that you had Postpartum Depression?

I came to the realization that these were not baby blues or just feeling off after 9 months of stagnation in my daily life. Things were crushing in my reality. I got to a point I could not effectively handle the bills, all my savings were almost depleted, I was in a constant state of despair, guilt and regret and to top it all I never wanted to live any longer.

Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

What symptoms did you experience? What did you feel during this time?

Some of the symptoms I experienced include:

  • Feeling helpless and out of control
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of interest in activities I once enjoyed
  • Intense guilt and feelings of regret
  • Weight gain
  • Constant exhaustion but total lack of sleep
  • Constant sadness and moments where I would cry without a distinct reason
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like I am a bad mother for not being happy and grateful for this new bundle of joy
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming myself and having someone better take care of the baby

How did you get help? What kind of support did you receive?

I was referred to Samoina of PPDKenya by a mutual friend and after a few weeks of direct communication with her, she recommended that I attend some group therapy sessions that were organised for both young moms and dads with signs of PPD. Initially she had recommended that I seek individual counselling sessions but I was a bit hesitant to open up so I eventually felt like the group therapy sessions would help me open up. After attending the group sessions I was subscribed for a series of additional individual sessions with the therapist for about three months and I was accorded thorough emotional and psychological support.

What about your healthcare provider? Was anyone able to pick up your symptoms?

My healthcare provider at the time did not pick any symptoms mainly because when a mother goes to clinic after childbirth the focus is normally on the wellness of the baby. There is also the general assumption that is made, that the mother is okay, while they may not be.

Looking back, what risk factors do you think predisposed you to PPD?

My biggest risk factor that triggered depression was an unsupportive partner. This drained me a lot. In addition, I was constantly exhausted due to lack of good sleep.

Read More: Out of This Life – A Photo Exhibition on Suicide in Kenya

What positive coping mechanisms have worked for you in your recovery journey so far?

Positive self-talk is a winner for sure. I used to love myself before conception but when PPD hit me hard I hated how I looked and even how I felt inside. After therapy, I am able to refute negative thoughts about my being and during moments when I feel overwhelmed, I always remind myself that I am in control (among other positive affirmations). I have grown to embrace meditation as part of my daily routine where I get in touch with my soul and I also get to let go of what no longer serves me.

In addition, I also engage in daily physical exercises which play a big role in breaking tension in moments when I feel otherwise. I journal long-term and short term goals to keep me motivated to work and achieve something tangible. I stick to a distinct schedule which also includes time for me to take naps and a quality time to sleep.  Also, I have gradually revived my spiritual life which was typically dead.

What encouragement would you give to a mom who has PPD, or an expectant woman on how to take care of her mental health during pregnancy?

Post Partum Depression (PPD) is a mental health condition that should not necessarily be a death sentence. As a woman, many factors can predispose one to PPD hence one should be keen to look out for distinct symptoms and at the onset of PPD seek psychotherapy/counselling. In addition, there are various inexpensive ways of seeking professional help as offered through PPDKenya.

What one thing do you wish you knew about PPD before your experience?

I wish that I knew what PPD is, its symptoms and how to protect myself from the trigger factors that initially sent me into a extended period of depression.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and with other moms. We hope your journey will encourage a mom who is scared of asking for help. Would you like to share your story on our website? Please get in touch on email: ppdkenya@gmail.com with the subject ‘PPD My Story’

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