Mothers’ support group marks a milestone

Simone Honikman, the founder of the Perinatal Mental Health Project in Hanover Park, said they were grateful that they could continue their work throughout the pandemic.

The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP), based at the Hanover Park Midwife Obstetrics Unit (MOU), held a thanksgiving ceremony, last week, 10 years after it was launched there.

The organisation, which addresses the need for integrated mental health care for pregnant and postpartum women and girls, also unveiled a mosaic bench in its garden.

According to the PMHP founder, Simone Honikman, the bench, made under the Rock Girl banner, has created a refuge not just for the community but also for the staff of both the Hanover Park MOU and PMHP.

Rock Girl, an organisation with its roots in Manenberg, and founded by India Baird, an American human-rights lawyer, installs the benches in public places.

Speaking at the event, Ms Honikman said: “We offer a world-class service for supporting the mental health of mothers, and we want to celebrate being able to come together and express our gratitude to all who made this organisation possible. We are grateful to Farouk Ebrahim and his family, who have been long-term supporters, and the Ebrahim family has generously gifted us with the bench. We also want to thank Lovell Friedman and her team of artists who have conceptualised the bench in the spirit of what PMHP represents. We also want to thank our donors, who are our life blood, for allowing us to continue our work. The MOU staff members are the other parents of this ‘baby’, and our relationship has grown from strength to strength.”

Liesl Hermanus, the clinical services co-ordinator, said most of their clients were from Hanover Park, the greater Athlone area, Khayelitsha, and Philippi.

“Here we assist mothers without judgement, and we can’t do what we do without the support of everyone,” she added.

Sister Lorretta Abrahams, the sister-in-charge of Hanover Park MOU, said the PMHP had become “a part of us”.

“Our clients that we serve are so in need of the services of the PMHP that we cannot imagine not having them around. Often the clients go to the PMHP before they come to us to book for their child’s birth. It is a safe haven for a lot of vulnerable mothers. With Liesl’s networking skills, the clients are not only assisted where their mental health is concerned but also with their physical needs, such as nutrition and toiletry needs for newborns. It’s nice to have the PMHP on our premises, and the statistics show how great the need is for this service,” Ms Abrahams said.

Professor Sharon Kleintjes from UCT’s department of psychology and mental health and herself a PMHP board member, said the latter was the poster child for the UN’s Global Strategy on Women and Children, which states that women and children must be able to survive, thrive, be in good health and transform.

“Your work is done locally, but you are reaching globally,” Professor Kleintjes said.

Liesl Hermanus started at the organisation as a mental health officer, and now she is the clinical services co-ordinator.
Hanover Park Midwife Obstetric Unit’s sister-in-charge Lorretta Abrahams said they could not imagine doing their work without the help of the Perinatal Mental Health Project.
Professor Sharon Kleintjes said the Perinatal Mental Health Project’s work might be local but it had global reach.