COVID-19: Help a click away for struggling young moms

04 May 2020 | Story Helen Swingler. Voice Nash Makado. Read time 7 min.
Perinatal depression and anxiety in low-income settings such as Hanover Park have been aggravated by enforced isolation in the wake of COVID-19. <b>Photo</b> Bev Meldrum.
Perinatal depression and anxiety in low-income settings such as Hanover Park have been aggravated by enforced isolation in the wake of COVID-19. Photo Bev Meldrum.
 

Enforced isolation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded already high rates of perinatal depression and anxiety among many new and young mothers in low- and middle-income communities. But the recently launched platform Messages for Mothers (M4M) by the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) , based at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, is changing that.

PMHP, which was established in 2002, provides mental health services to pregnant and postnatal women.

M4M is a one-stop online resource developed in response to COVID-19 and the lack of targeted messaging for vulnerable mothers who are concerned for their children, families and themselves, said PMHP director, Associate Professor Simone Honikman.

In creating M4M, the PMHP teamed up with other organisations that work closely with mothers and have resources and experience in supporting mothers. These are Embrace, Flourish, Grow Great and Side by Side.

Many of the women they are targeting also face overcrowding, gender-based violence and food insecurity. On the M4M website, these women can find immediate help and information in three main areas: maternal and mental health, physical health, and parenting in the pandemic.

M4M supports the integration of quality maternal mental healthcare into mother and child initiatives in low- and middle-income settings. Photo Bev Meldrum.

The platform curates simple content that answers common questions like “Must I wear a mask? Will I get a child support grant? How do I explain COVID-19 to my children?”, and provides links to essential advice, information and support. Besides physical health, parenting and mental health – including some resources on domestic violence – it offers specially crafted mindfulness podcasts and helpline repositories.

M4M’s work continues PMHP’s core mission, said Honikman.

This is to support the integration of quality maternal mental healthcare into mother and child initiatives in low- and middle-income settings. To accomplish their mission, they have four focus areas: advocacy for action, strengthening of maternal mental healthcare systems, generating knowledge and building the capacity of service providers.

High depression and anxiety rates

The stakes are high, said Honikman.

 

“Prior to COVID-19, the prevalence of depression and anxiety in pregnant and postnatal women was about one in three.”

“Prior to COVID-19, the prevalence of depression and anxiety in pregnant and postnatal women was about one in three. For each mental health condition separately, the rate was about one in five, but there’s a lot of co-morbidity. This is based on PMHP’s research at our service site in the Hanover Park Midwife Obstetrics Unit where we used diagnostic tools to assess for these mental health conditions.”

In communities such as Hanover Park, social dysfunction is characterised by high drug and alcohol abuse, gang wars, food insecurity and gender-based violence.

“We also want to address domestic violence as there has been an enormous escalation of this since lockdown, and the negative associations with mental health and maternal health, and child physical outcomes are well documented.

 

“There are so many terrifying things for under-resourced mothers to cope with.”

“Besides caring for young children under strained circumstances, there are so many terrifying things for under-resourced mothers to cope with.”

Honikman hopes the resources M4M provides will filter down into mother and caregiver networks.

‘Kind and supportive’

Mothers who access the M4M website are welcomed in an introductory video. Leaders of the alliance partners share a warm welcome and expressions of solidarity from their own homes or community settings.

PMHP’s Liesl Hermanus in her Hanover Park office, “We’ve created M4M to help share the load.” Photo Liesl Hermanus.

“We’ve created M4M to help share the load by sharing information, tips and advice in a space that is evidence-based, kind and supportive,” explained the PMHP’s Liesl Hermanus.

During the lockdown, Hermanus still conducts telephonic counselling with existing clients and face-to-face sessions with “very vulnerable clients” or those without access to privacy or private phones. High-risk women are referred by midwives on a case-by-case basis.

To offset the limitations of high data costs, M4M has developed shorter graphic message versions of their articles. They’ve also used technology to shrink their audio resources, such as the mental health and mindfulness podcasts.

 

“We’re actively campaigning that the materials are made available on zero-rated websites.”

“We’re actively campaigning that the materials are made available on zero-rated websites and on the National Department of Health WhatsApp line,” Honikman noted. “We plan now to move into a phase of getting the messages out on radio, either as pre-recordings that can be prepared or with live interviews with experts who speak a range of South African languages.”

Since starting the M4M campaign, the most clicked resources have been:

Working with other partners, Honikman is also helping to develop the messaging component of the “National Framework and Guidelines for Maternal and Neonatal Care During a Crisis: COVID-19 response” for the director of Maternal and Neonatal Health at the National Department of Health, Dr Manala Makua.

This component has been designed to be adapted for potential future crises.


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 updates

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March. This was followed by the implementation of a national lockdown, which has been in effect since midnight on 26 March and has recently been extended to 30 April. The intention of this drastic measure is to “flatten the curve” and contain the spread of the coronavirus to enable healthcare workers to more effectively treat those affected.

UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information.

Campus updates

 

Daily updates


Friday, 29 May 09:25, 29 May 2020
Monday, 25 May 14:00, 25 May 2020
Thursday, 21 May 12:00, 21 May 2020
Wednesday, 6 May 10:00, 6 May 2020
Tuesday, 5 May 17:05, 5 May 2020
Thursday, 30 April 17:10, 30 April 2020
Tuesday, 28 April 10:30, 28 April 2020
Friday, 24 April 09:35, 24 April 2020
Thursday, 23 April 17:00, 23 April 2020
Wednesday, 22 April 14:25, 22 April 2020
Monday, 20 April 17:45, 20 April 2020
Friday, 17 April 12:30, 17 April 2020
Thursday, 16 April 09:45, 16 April 2020
Tuesday, 14 April 11:30, 14 April 2020
Thursday, 9 April 09:00, 9 April 2020
Wednesday, 8 April 15:40, 8 April 2020
Wednesday, 1 April 15:50, 1 April 2020
Friday, 27 March 11:40, 27 March 2020
Thursday, 26 March 18:30, 26 March 2020
Tuesday, 24 March 15:40, 24 March 2020
Monday, 23 March 15:40, 23 March 2020
Friday, 20 March 16:00, 20 March 2020
Thursday, 19 March 09:15, 19 March 2020
Wednesday, 18 March 16:00, 18 March 2020
Tuesday, 17 March 12:50, 17 March 2020
Monday, 16 March 17:15, 16 March 2020

Campus communications


Pre-paid data for UCT students 14:25, 22 April 2020
Update for postgraduate students 12:55, 20 April 2020
UCT Human Resources and COVID-19 16:05, 19 March 2020
UCT confirms second COVID-19 case 09:15, 19 March 2020
Update on UCT COVID-19 response 13:50, 11 March 2020
Update on COVID-19 17:37, 6 March 2020

Resources

Video messages from the Department of Medicine

Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19

The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.


To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.

Useful information from UCT

External resources


News and opinions


Statements and media releases


Media releases



Read more  

Statements from Government



 
 

In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”

 

We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.

 

TOP