Milestone for PMHP

10 September 2008 | Story by Chris McEvoy

PMHP team
Helping hands: The Perinatal Mental Health Project team celebrated screening their 5000th client. At the event were(from left) Sally Field, Dr Philly Mabusela, Dr Simone Honikman, Prof Sue Fawcus and Karin Moore.

UCT's Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) reached a new milestone in screening their 5000th client, which they celebrated at an event on 5 September.

Based at the Mowbray Maternity Hospital, the PMHP has, since its launch in 2002, been tackling the epidemic of mental distress among women living in adversity in South Africa. Women are screened, and those identified as needing support receive counselling and treatment. The service is provided free of charge.

According to health providers, mental health care is notoriously neglected, due to the focus on pressing physical health issues such as HIV and AIDS. Postnatal depression in Khayelitsha, for example, is reported to be about three times higher than that in developed countries, with one in three women suffering from the condition.

"It was not good enough for our mouths to hang open down to the table," says project head Dr Simone Honikman. "A group of us knew that something must be done. We got together to start a screening and referral service."

The project has received formal commendation from the World Health Organisation, the Impumelelo Award for innovation and poverty alleviation, and is still going strong. The project became self-funding in 2007 and is now situated within UCT, but continues to work for the public health service.

"The Mental Health and Poverty Project in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health offered us an excellent base. Here, in addition to our ongoing service work, we hope to be publishing our papers and disseminating our findings and experience."

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