The Ububele Baby Mat Service – A primary preventative mental health intervention in a culturally diverse setting
The Ububele Baby Mat Service is a community-based, parent–infant mental health intervention offered at five primary health care clinics in Alexandra Township, in Johannesburg. The aim of the intervention is to promote healthy caregiver-infant attachments. There has been a steady increase in the number of mother-baby dyads making use of the service. This paper aims to explore how the Baby Mat Service and Baby Mat practitioners position and locate themselves in a culturally diverse community setting where multiple meaning systems are drawn on for making sense of health concerns. Two key components of the Baby Mat Service are discussed: i) the presence of an inter-racial therapeutic couple on the mat; and ii) the stance adopted by the Baby Mat practitioners in relation to culturally diverse understandings of a presenting problem. The therapeutic couple engages with culturally-informed frames of reference in an attitude of wondering and tentative thinking (“mhlawumbe” in isiZulu). When a respectfully curious stance was taken by practitioners, it was found to help those accessing the mat to find symbolic meaning in the presenting problem and integrate this with cultural understandings.