Why our work matters

Promoting maternal mental health has benefits across several sectors

Maternal, reproductive and infant health

  • Promotes optimal access to health and social services by vulnerable groups of women and girls, which improves functioning, capabilities and quality of life
  • Promotes positive obstetric outcomes
  • Promotes successful and longer breastfeeding, which in turn prevents diarrhoea episodes and improves mother-infant bonding
  • Promotes completion of infant immunisations
  • Reduces rates of infectious illness and hospital admissions
  • Increases resilience, agency, and care-giving capacity of mothers living in poverty

Early childhood development

  • Mental ill-health can compromise parental functioning and care-giving capacity which is central to child development. The ‘1000-day’ window from conception to two-years is a particularly sensitive period in child development and maternal mental health interventions are protective, preventative and promotive of optimal infant, child and maternal health outcomes.
  • Mental wellness in the primary caregiver is associated with better development in children, as well as better nutrition. Under-nutrition is the single most deleterious determinant of poor child development – a factor also strongly linked to children’s diminished mental health.
  • A mother with positive self-esteem and an ability to work towards a better future will better be able to negotiate the hardships in her life, care for herself and optimally nurture the development of her children.

Addressing HIV/AIDS

  • Prevents default and improves adherence to ARV (and TB) treatment regimens
  • Immune status improves when depression and anxiety is managed
  • Promotes optimal PMTCT outcomes

Addressing gender-based violence

When women are listened to and validated in a safe and therapeutic environment they begin to restore their self-esteem and locus of control. Women may be empowered to identify what actions they can realistically take to change their circumstances.

Development

  • Provides the necessary support to empower women to identify resources and personal capabilities; this enhances resilience to difficult life circumstances and supports them to nurture their children optimally
  • Improves outcomes related to MDG 4: reduce under-five mortality, MDG 5: improve maternal health and MDG 6: combat major diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB.
  • Reduces general health care costs through early detection and referral of mental health problems
  • Increases rate of return of investment in human development and requires less investment for interventions timed at later stages

Public Health Sector

  • Prevents nurse abuse of clients in maternity settings and promotes empathic care in supportive maternity environments
    Addresses upstream causes of ill-health and burden of disease
  • Contributes to achieving Department of Health objectives as outlined in the Mental Health Care Act (2002), the Primary Health Care Re-engineering Plan, the Comprehensive Service Plan for the Implementation of Healthcare 2020 and the Negotiated Service Delivery Agreement
  • Addresses the gap in maternal mental health knowledge
  • Reduces general health care costs through early detection, prevention or referral of mental health problems
  • Addresses major stressors on the public health system, such as
    • health worker burnout
    • human rights abuses in public obstetric facilities
  • Builds capacity within the public sector to address maternal mental illness which
    • combats stigma, shifts attitudes and increases morale
    • empowers health workers to identify and manage maternal mental health problems and improves their ability to handle personal crises
    • maximises scarce resources
  • These factors simultaneously contribute to improved quality of service delivery.