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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.