Healing mothers in Hanover Park

26 March 2012

Of the 160 pregnant women screened in Hanover Park over the past four months, almost 45% were diagnosed with either anxiety or depression. And of those, almost a quarter were found to be suicidal - that is, have thought about suicide.

These chilling stats came to light at the launch of the UCT-based Perinatal Mental Health Project's (PMHP) research and service site at the Hanover Park Midwife Obstetric Unit. The occasion marked the unveiling of the project's newest kid on the block - its fourth site after Mowbray Maternity Hospital, False Bay Hospital and Retreat Midwife Obstetric Unit.

Initially set up in 2002, the PMHP is a founding partner of the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, and seeks to address mental illness among pregnant women and girls from disadvantaged communities.

And with the addition of the new Hanover Park site - sitting on the intersection of the 'turfs' of three of the Cape's most notorious gangs - the project takes another leap towards making mental health a routine part of obstetric care.

"Women are coming to obstetric services anyway in this country," said Dr Simone Honikman, PMHP director. "We have a 92% antenatal attendance rate for the whole country. That's great going. We're going to be mercenary and use this opportunity to optimise women's uptake of mental health services."

The aim, adds Honikman, is to generate the best possible evidence-based models for effective low-cost maternity care for the country and "possibly beyond".

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