WAIMH Executive Director Address

Puura Kaija

Dear WAIMH members and colleagues,

With the year 2019 being still new, maybe it is good to take a look back at the year 2018. For me, last year was a bit busier than usual, with the preparations for the Rome congress during the spring and, after that, with several changes happening in the Office. Times of transition are often challenging. We know that changes are necessary, and yet we feel some regret for having to go through them. Becoming the Executive Director of the WAIMH was – in addition to being an honor – a necessity, and yet carried a bit of sadness for having to say goodbye to my long-time boss and friend, Pälvi. Growing into the new role as the ED of WAIMH could perhaps be described as like wearing a new pair of shoes: it takes time before you feel comfortable walking in them. The big questions for me are how I can serve WAIMH and how I can best promote Infant Mental Health as ED.

One of the best things about our organization is that it puts you in touch with lots of nice people who are working for Infant Mental Health in their own countries and regions. Through WAIMH, people from different countries can reach out to each other and ask for collaboration in providing education, training or even patient consultation. So, thanks to the initiatives of my WAIMH friends and colleagues I found myself taking part in workshops on Infant Mental Health issues at congresses for people working with children and adolescents in July and in adult psychiatry in September. Even though the number of people attending these workshops was countered rather in tens than hundreds, those attending were genuinely interested in hearing about babies and their parents, and also eager to share their own experiences. My hope is that each of these colleagues will in turn talk about what they learned with their own coworkers and get them interested in Infant Mental Health as well.

I also had the opportunity to make two longer training trips. In October I was invited to Cape Town, South Africa to teach a multidisciplinary group of professionals for a few days. We worked together learning how to detect signs of infant distress by observing the infant, and what it might mean in the local context. It was wonderful to experience how skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic the Cape Town trainees were and how easy it was to talk with one another. My year ended with a trip to Japan, where thanks to the perseverance and work of many Japanese colleagues, the municipalities now have to offer health care services to all families with infants in a similar manner to Nordic countries. In Japan the new services have been named “neubora” after “neuvola”, the Finnish name by which the well-baby clinics are known. My hosts had organized one day trainings in Tokyo and in Osaka for primary health care nurses working in these new services. Together we practiced supporting parents in the primary care services and talked about how babies develop and why promoting Infant Mental Health is important. In Tokyo I also had a wonderful experience of visiting a child protection center and being part of a case consultation. And just like in Cape Town, I enjoyed meeting and talking with the local professionals involved in Infant Mental Health. It is one of the wonders and great gifts of this work, finding good people all over the world sharing the same goals and giving you hope, too. These encounters and the nourishment they provide keep us going all around the world!



Kaija Puura (WAIMH Executive Director) Finland.