Women's Mental Health Program
202 Antenatal women and 112 Postpartum women supported
“Even though my daughter has passed away, I am now motivated to face life and raise my grandchildren in the best of my ability. Thanks to PPB’s intervention,” says an elderly grandmother who enrolled in Project Peanut Butter (PPB) and Mental Health Coalition’s maternal mental health program in Sierra Leone.
She had lost her daughter to Postpartum Depression (PD) and was left to take care of her two babies. The loss took a toll on her, but luckily, the program had already been implemented and she was able to receive the support she needed.
“Depression is common among young mothers in Sierra Leone,” says Joshua Abioseh Duncan, country director of the Mental Health Coalition in Sierra Leone. Several hundred Antenatal and Postpartum women suffer from depression every year.
The goal is to combine the essential nutrients necessary to heal a mother’s body with the critical mental health support needed after pregnancy. The program, which was initiated by PPB and Mental Health Coalition in 2021, quickly started making an outstanding difference in the lives of young mothers suffering from Postpartum Depression.
“People were happy to see us because they knew of the help that we were providing for them,” says Jumeika Lopez, supervisor of the team of councilors working at clinics across Pujehun district.
Screening tools and documents collecting information from each individual regarding stress and depression levels were first implemented into the program, followed by 6 weekly individual therapy sessions. At first, participation rates were low. This may have been a result of the fact that this mental health program was different than many other services – no material reward was offered for participating.
“Participation rates ended up increasing as the program progressed, and people started spreading their own stories of success into the community” says Jumeika.
The reward would be better than anyone could have hoped for; a sense of peace, comfort, and freedom for all the young mothers who were suffering from depression before and after their pregnancies.
202 Antenatal women and 112 Postpartum women have already been successful in the program, and the numbers continue to increase. The program is ongoing and is continuing to be implemented in clinics across the Pujehun district in Sierra Leone.
“It was a very cool and humbling experience to be there since the beginning of the program, because you literally and physically saw the happiness in people’s lives because of the program,” says Jumeika.
Impact as of October 13th, 2022
74 school going girls overcome fear of returning to school
260 school going girls involved in petty trading
96 young women and girls reunited with their partners
NEW MATERNAL STUDY
Project Peanut Butter is partnered with the Sierra Leone Mental Health Coalition and is working on a new study (COGENT) investigating the effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on women that suffer from post-partum depression. As a result of COGENT, new clinics opened in five locations across the Pujehun district in Sierra Leone. The clinics offer several different components to the study including weekly screenings/counseling sessions, community visits, and support groups. These depression screenings are unique to Sierra Leone as they take into account the cultural differences. For example, western CBT practices might look at loss of appetite as an indicator of depression, while in Pujehun, a more common sign of depression in women is anger. Community visits are also a common component of the clinics and involve councilors visiting specific villages based on that village's needs at the time. Finally, support groups are a new component that was recently founded by women who already had graduated the program. Within these support groups, women came together to work on projects that could support them financially such as soap making and peanut farming.
NEW MATERNAL STUDY
A note from Meredith Moore, volunteer for PPB Sierra Leone:
When I visited the Zimmi mental health clinic — one of the largest clinic locations, with about 40 to 50 women in the group session — Ferida, a counselor, sat next to me during this portion and translated what each of the women were saying. Many of these women that spoke were on the last of their 6 counseling sessions and were explaining how this counseling had helped them and how their situation had changed over the last 6 weeks. While each specific story varied, the overall theme of each testimony was an emphasis on gratefulness to the counselors and an explanation of how much their lives had been changed by these clinics. Women in some of the
most heartbreaking situations, often including abandonment and motherhood, felt that they had become a completely new person with a new outlook on their situations, and perhaps most importantly hope and renewed strength for the future.