The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) (www.pmhp.za.org) is an independent initiative based at the University of Cape Town. It is located within the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health.
The PMHP is a non-profit entity that provides maternal mental health services since 2002. The PMHP is working in close collaboration with the Western Cape Departments of Health and Social Development. It provides counselling screening, services and appropriate referral as well as builds capacity among various health, social and development workers to provide support for pregnant women and girls experiencing psychological distress.
The PMHP actively addresses the challenges associated with gender based violence, teen pregnancy, HIV, substance misuse, refugee status and early childhood development through its clinical engagement with vulnerable women and their families, through training of staff that interact with these women, through research projects and advocacy work. The PMHP supports state agencies to achieve health and social development objectives and address some of the challenges in meeting Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.
Vision and Mission
We envision mental health support for all mothers to promote their well-being, and that of their children and communities.
Our mission is to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively at scale in low resource settings.
We provide mental health services for pregnant and postnatal women, train those who work with mothers to improve the quality of their care, form partnerships to promote the scale up of services and inform global interventions through robust research and advocacy.
At our service delivery sites, we provide routine screening for pregnant women and girls for depression and anxiety at the first antenatal visit. If they show signs or are at risk of depression or anxiety free on-site psychosocial counselling, follow-up and case management is provided by our trained counsellors for up to one year post delivery. The PMHP model is based on a stepped care approach, which means that referrals are made to psychiatric services when necessary. We build partnerships with public services and civil society to promote outreach and sustainability of service delivery.
Teaching & Training
In this programme, we train health care and social service workers and extend our reach beyond our immediate service beneficiaries. Improved empathic engagement skills and mental health literacy of health and social service workers creates a long-term difference in the care experienced by pregnant women and mothers who access public services. Through a range of participative learning modules that involve reflective practice, the PMHP provides undergraduate, in-service training, train-of-trainer and professional development training. We teach in the public sector, within tertiary institutions and non-governmental organisations.
We build the knowledge base for maternal mental health service provision in low-resource settings. Our research programme generates evidence for the effectiveness of the different components of PMHP’s service model and how to implement it in different low-resource settings. Through our research collaborations, we are part of international academic and activist forums that address how best to provide these services in a low-resource environment.
Advocacy & Communications
Our multimedia advocacy work promotes the need, value and model of maternal mental health care to the public as well as to policy and decision makers in the public healthcare and social development sectors. We have partnered in public campaigns and worked with policy makers in the early childhood development sector as well as national and provincial mental health and maternal care policies.