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Unravelling Eve: exploring maternal mental illness

20 March 2012

The mental suffering experienced by thousands of new mothers every year is to be highlighted in a new artistic project.

Postpartum psychosis can strike women without warning just after childbirth, causing severe psychotic delusions or mania. The illness affects between one in 500 and one in 1000 new mothers, but is not widely known about or understood.

Unravelling Eve is a new work under preparation by Joan Molloy, using film, sculpture and installation art. She is working with women who have suffered from the illness and with Cardiff University scientists who are aiming to beat it.

Dr Ian Jones, of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, has been working on the genetic causes of postpartum psychosis. He has identified genetic factors which may affect mothers’ mental health, and been internationally recognised for his work raising awareness of the disorder. Dr Jones is now working with Joan on the project, which is funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award.

Dr Jones said: "Joan has come to Cardiff to talk to the team in the laboratory and understand the science behind the illness. She has also organised a workshop where ten women who have suffered postpartum psychosis came together to talk about their experiences. Joan has created some really interesting work and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what she produces on this project. We’re hoping the artwork will help improve public understanding of this highly distressing condition, which can be one of the most severe in psychiatry."

Joan said: "The workshop with the women who have experienced postpartum psychosis was really important. It’s obviously a sensitive issue, but I had a fantastic reaction from them. I learned a lot about what they have gone through. Ian has explained a great deal about the disease and the role of DNA, and I plan to work that in as well."

Joan is intending to create an artwork which will take in sculpture, installation and a film which will be shown at festivals later in the year and will also be available to download.

Notes to Editor

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Ian Jones

Reader in Perinatal Psychiatry

Department of Psychological Medicine

School of Medicine

Cardiff University

Tel: 44 (0)2920 744663 / 4010


Stephen Rouse,

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University.

029 2087 5596