Growing Infant Mental Health in the world – a challenge for us all
At the Rome Affiliate Council meeting in May 2018, affiliate presidents were invited to contribute to the work of the Affiliate Council by participating in one of two working groups. One of these working groups will be progressing the development of a set of guidelines for local Infant Mental Health groups to become “WAIMH Affiliates”.
Some of the most populous areas of the world such as China, India, and many parts of Africa, South America and Asia are yet to form professional organisations under an Infant Mental Health umbrella specifically for the advancement of the social and emotional needs of infants. In some contexts, infant survival is such a pressing concern that their social and emotional needs may seem a secondary issue. However, the capacity of caregivers to protect and provide for their children, are not just about the physical health of the caregiver and the baby but just as importantly, about their mental health. Furthermore, Infant Mental Health activities can be embedded in other activities, such as those designed to enhance child development, support for women, or local health and housing initiatives.
In many of these contexts, there may be no Infant Mental Health focused professional group because there is limited awareness of Infant Mental Health as an important priority for the future wellbeing of children. Conditions may be difficult for local professionals who may be growing their own awareness and understanding of these important developmental opportunities to strengthen communities, support families, protect caregivers and their infants and engage communities in culturally relevant research. Even in more developed contexts, there may not be a local network or group specific to Infant Mental Health.
WAIMH Affiliate council can connect with and encourage local groups with a developing interest and professional involvement in Infant Mental Health to build a formal connection to WAIMH. The benefits of being part of an international scientific and professional association focused on the advancement of Infant Mental Health around the world include strengthening local advocacy efforts, connecting with other colleagues for support with this difficult work, and sharing the learning that comes from these experiences.
At present, members of this working group include Dawn Cannon (AIMH, UK) and Nicole Letourneau (Alberta, Canada) as well as Anna Huber (Affiliate Council Chair) and Jane Barlow (Affiliate Council Representative). We would highly value input from other members living and working in parts of the world where the field of Infant Mental Health is less developed, who can add valuable perspectives to these guidelines as we develop them. Such input can also inform the work of the WAIMH board by strengthening the diversity of perspectives within our international Infant Mental Health association.
Anna Huber (WAIMH Affiliate’s Council Chair, Australia) and Jane Barlow (WAIMH Affiliate Council Representative, UK)