The Voices of COVID-19 Perspectives in Infant Mental Health Special Issue: From the Editors 

We welcome you all to this winter (2020) special issue: The Voices of COVID-19 WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. We wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge every baby across the globe, and to strengthen our resolve to be actively engaged in ensuring that every baby is seen, protected, and provided with nurturing care, along with their families and their communities. We also wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge all infant and early childhood mental health professionals who are working relentlessly with, and on behalf of, babies and their families amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in 2020, in response to COVID-19 and the emerging voices of families with infants, early childhood mental health practitioners, and researchers, a tiered initiative with three unique but inter-related platforms was developed as a collaboration between the Infant Mental Health Journal and WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. The initiative, “Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, is led by Holly Brophy-Herb (Editor of the Infant Mental Health Journal), Jane Barlow (Guest Editor), and Maree Foley (Editor of WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health).

This special issue of WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health, represents the culmination of our efforts for Platform 1: The Voices of COVID-19 WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. At the outset, the goals of this platform were to:

  1. Capture some of the experiences of individuals, families, and practitioners of meeting and working together with the shared purpose of supporting, promoting, and protecting the mental health of babies during this global COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Make these learnings from these experiences immediately available to WAIMH and our allied WAIMH community; and
  3. Identify emerging themes that could inform future empirical COVID-19 infant and early childhood mental health research.

Furthermore, given that many of us are in virtual connection but not able to meet in person, we asked authors to keep in view both the baby in the families that are the focus of their paper, and you the reader. Our hope in doing this was to bring each reader as close as possible to the infants and families that the authors present to us – as if we were together in the same room, sharing experiences, and learning from each other.

Work on this special issue began in July and we are delighted to now share with you a series of papers. We begin the series with two research papers that focus on pregnancy and birthing.

The first is a paper from colleagues in Portugal: COVID-19 and Mental Health in Pregnancy: A Cross-sectional Study on Depression, Anxiety, and Stress among Portuguese Pregnant Women (Pedro Rafael Figueiredo, Joana Mesquita Reis, Francisca Padez Vieira, Patrícia Lopes, Maria João Nascimento, Cristina Marques, Pedro Caldeira da Silva). The next paper is from colleagues in Chile, entitled Birth during the Coronavirus Pandemic: “When fear is the uninvited guest” (Macarena Romero, Catalina Sievereson, Marcia Olhaberry, Carolina Honorato, and Trinidad Tagle).  The focus then turns to a paper on shared pleasure by a colleague in South Africa, Anusha Lachman entitled: Shared Pleasure in the Time of COVID 19 – The Importance of the Shared Smile for Babies in a World of Masked Faces. We then feature a paper that is oriented towards the care of the practitioner, written by colleagues in the USA, Margaret Holmberg and Heidi Maderia, entitled: Helping the Helpers. Relationships During the Pandemic: “Good Morning, Margaret” “Good Morning, Heidi”.

The next group of papers, from colleagues in the USA and Portugal, are clustered around the theme of telemedicine and telehealth: A necessary Telemedicine Intervention for a Pre-Schooler with Anxiety during COVID-19: A Clinical Reflection (Miller Shivers, USA); When the Screen becomes a Playground: A Dyadic Therapy Program’s Transition to Telehealth during COVID-19 (Hillary Mayers, USA); Symbolic Play using Telehealth: A Brief Case Study during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Martha Alverez, USA); COVID-19 Confinement and Babies: Video-Call-Based Developmental and Mental Health Approach (Christina Halpern, Mariana Alves, Sandra Pires, Pedro Caldeira de Silva, Portugal); and Clinician Perspectives on Adapting Evidence-Based Mental Health Treatment for Infants and Toddlers during COVID-19 (Annie E. Davis, Dorinda Williams, Whitney Wortham, Deborah F. Perry, Emily Aron, Audrey Neff, and Matthew G. Biel, USA).

We then present two papers that focus on early childcare during COVID-19. First, a paper by a colleague in the USA: The Classrooms that Never Closed: Stories of Essential Early Childhood Practitioners (Candace Barriteau Phaire). The second paper, also by colleagues in the USA, is entitled: Bolstering Social-Emotional Development in 0-3 Childcare During a World Pandemic: Balancing Physical Health and Safety with Emotional Well-Being (Katherine A. Lingras, Krista Mrozinski, Anna Clavin, Arielle Handevidt, Lauren Moberg, Cari Michaels, Mary Mischke, Tracy Schreifels, and Michele Fallon).

The impact of COVID-19 and necessary adaptations to group programmes are presented next. First a paper with colleagues from Israel and the USA: “Co-Relation” Groups – Virtual support groups for Israeli parents. Understanding the messiness and repairs of relationships between parents and young children during COVID-19: A case study (Gilad Amshalom, Miri Bar-Halpern, Tamar Lev-Ran Galai, Dana Lahav-Meir, and Ed Tronick). The second paper in this set is by colleagues in Australia, Infants at a Distance: Adaptation of the Building Early Attachment and Resilience (BEAR) program during COVID-19 for Online Virtual Delivery (Louise Newman, Vesna Newman-Morris, Angela Komiti, Beth Gammell, Alice Braden, and Sarah-Pia Carron).

Our next step in this initiative is to turn our focus towards goal three of this first platform: To identify an emerging research agenda for understanding and responding to the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of babies in their families and communities. This emergent agenda will be primarily constructed from each paper published in this special issue and papers from Platform 2 in this initiative (see below). This overarching research agenda paper will be published on the WAIMH website in early-mid 2021.

As noted above, Perspectives in Infant Mental Health and the Infant Mental Health Journal are collaborating in a multi-tiered approach to address infant and early childhood mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Platform 2, the next step in the response to the pandemic, involves a special section of papers in the Infant Mental Health Journal designed to address research findings in the immediate context of the pandemic.  The call for a special section of papers was issued in Summer 2019 and abstract submissions were received in December 2020.  Invitations for full manuscripts will be issued in January 2021 with manuscripts due in the spring and publication expected by fall 2021. There is also the possibility of Platform 3 that would consist of a special issue of the Infant Mental Health Journal focused fully on research that examines the impact of the pandemic on infant and early childhood mental health, including how the field can respond most efficiently and effectively in the face of similar crises in the future. Collectively, the multi-tiered collaboration between WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health and the Infant Mental Health Journal is designed to amplify the voices and needs of infants, young children, and their families during this global crisis and inform innovative, applied practices to support them, and to promote their development and well-being.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the support of the WAIMH Board and the WAIMH office in the creation of this issue and are delighted to feature messages from WAIMH President Campbell Paul and WAIMH Executive Director Kaija Puura. We finish this issue with news from the engine room of WAIMH, the WAIMH Office in Tampere, Finland, with Minna Sorsa and Sari Miettinen at the helm.

Read the Full Issue.

Authors

Authors
Maree Foley (Switzerland), Holly Brophy-Herb (USA), Jane Barlow (UK), Patricia O'Rourke (Australia), Jody Todd Manly (USA), Azhar AbuAli (UAE), Salisha Maharaj (South Africa), and Chaya Kulkarni (Canada)