From my home in Naarm (Melbourne), I’d like to honour and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land from which I’m writing to you, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I’ve learnt so much about infants, community, about care of our youngest from our First Nations people.
We live in an era of constant change and over these last few years we have seen many of our communities across the world face major trauma and severe disruption. The Covid-19 pandemic still challenges us, but many have now been able to travel to meet with family, friends, and colleagues in person. We are certainly looking forward to the opportunity to do just this at the WAIMH Congress in Dublin, just several months away. We have received 1411 submissions for the Congress and the initial program is up on the web. The program is extremely rich and varied and I am really looking forward to hearing the scientific and clinical contributions about new developments in infant mental health. The Scientific Program Committee has been extremely busy, as have the Local Organising Committee and the WAIMH Office in Tampere in preparing for the Congress. Dublin, a city filled with literature, friendship, and history, will be our wonderful host.
Sponsor a Delegate to the WAIMH Congress Dublin. To meet in person at the Dublin congress, is a wonderful opportunity, and we would very much like to share this opportunity with our colleagues from less well-resourced countries who might not be able to attend without some support. WAIMH members have a strong history of generosity. When you register for the WAIMH Congress you may donate to the Sponsor a Delegate Program as you proceed through the registration process. https://www.waimh2023.org/registration/
Eligible persons can apply to the registration link (https://www.waimh2023.org/delegate-funding/) and the submissions go to the Local Organising Committee for selection. Our goal is to have as many people from lower/middle-income countries participating as possible. You may also support colleagues through your local Affiliate.
In November last year, I was privileged to be able to travel to several conferences: Miri Keren, as a past president of WAIMH and Chair of the World Psychiatric Association Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Section, has been very active in linking colleagues in adult and perinatal and infant mental health. We presented at the WPA Thematic conference in Malta where we focused on the importance of close collaboration between infant mental health and adult mental health clinicians and services.
This theme of collaboration amongst disciplines and different sectors of health service delivery was also the focus of an annual conference in November at Avignon, organised by Michel Dugnat with our French colleagues. This was a very enlivening conference, entitled “Environner Bebe: Quel ‘village’ pour un developpement suffisament?”.. exploring what sorts of intersectoral collaboration, or “village” work towards the best outcome for babies and families. Michel and his colleagues from AIMH France and French-speaking countries, interwove the science of understanding infant and family development and relationships, with a broad array of social, psychological, cultural, and artistic initiatives.
It was an honour for me to meet up with WAIMH colleagues in Paris including another esteemed past president, Antoine Guedeney, and then to travel afterwards to Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria, where there are vigorous developments in infant and perinatal mental health, also with cross service collaborations. On my way home to Melbourne, I attended the 25th World Congress of IACAPAP in Dubai where infant mental health was strongly represented from the Tampere WAIMH office, with presentations from Minna Sorsa, Kaija Puura, from the WAIMH office, me, Sari Jarvi, Finland and Salisha Maharaj, Cape Town. Salisha is the Assistant Editor for Perspectives.
Communication is such an important thing for our global organisation and for the infants and families we serve, and it seems that one potential benefit from the COVID pandemic has been an increased opportunity to communicate through the web and social media. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Maree Foley as Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives as she has taken our online journal to amazing heights as an available, creative, and professional journal. The Infant Mental Health Journal is also going from strength to strength as a key communicator of cutting-edge research.
At the IACAPAP Congress in Dubai, Daniel Fung, then President of IACAPAP and I as president of WAIMH signed a memorandum of understanding between our two organisations to promote collaboration and cooperation. Our Congress hosts were very generous, and we had several meetings with colleagues who have established an Infant Mental Health Affiliate in the Emirates, including the current affiliate president, Dr Azhar Abu Ali.
One of the fruits of this collaboration has been launch last year of the World Infant Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day. This year the world focus on mental health needs of infant, children and adolescents will be on 23 April. Details of some of the events, including a joint seminar with IACAPAP, WPA Child and Adolescent Section, and the International Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology, can be obtained in Perspectives, and online at the IACAPAP website. The seminar will focus on children and young people affected by war, earthquake, and implementing evidence-based responses.
With our Affiliates, WAIMH supports major regional meetings and in February, we saw the launch of an exciting online Spanish-speaking Conference, “Perinatality, Childhood and Family, How do we care?”. This well attended online conference, was chaired by the president of ASMI, Pascual Palau Subiela, and there were some 280 participants from Spanish-speaking and other parts of the world. Members of the WAIMH Board presented a symposium.
The German-Speaking Affiliate will have their annual meeting in Salzburg, Austria in May, and President-elect Astrid Berg will speak online at the conference also.
The theme for the World Infant Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day this year is Stand Against Infant, Child, and Adolescent Trauma. I think this is an important opportunity for us to share our understanding that even very young babies and toddlers are affected by trauma which may surround them. One of the key roles for infant mental health clinicians, I believe, is to help colleagues and the general public, understand the baby’s capacity for intersubjectivity, the infant and toddler’s capacity for reading and trying to understand intense expressed emotion from those caring for them. The infant is an acutely sensitive and attuned social being from the beginning. In the midst of natural and man-made crises and conflict, human systems often overlook the needs of our youngest who can clearly be traumatised, whether it be on a large-scale or within an individual family set-up.
I look forward to meeting up with you in Dublin in July!
Campbell Paul, Melbourne, Australia
President of WAIMH, Associate Professor, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Centre