Dear friends and colleagues,
I feel very privileged to have been able to spend a WAIMH week in Dublin, the city of literature, a city of people who shared so much of their culture, their struggles and a powerful sense of family and community. Before the Congress had even begun, the hospitality was flowing. Several of us were treated to generous hospitality at the Crumlin Children’s Hospital by the Hospital’s passionate infant mental health professional network. Everyone there works to ensure that the voice of the infant will be heard whether in the hospital or the broader community.
On my way to Dublin, I attended the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Congress (ESCAP), in Copenhagen. It too is a very friendly and historic city, and it was wonderful to spend time with our colleagues who are seeing troubled older children, adolescents, and their families. Our colleagues were also focused on the experience of children and families in the context of war and natural disasters, including the plight of many refugees from Ukraine and other countries within and bordering Europe. There was an important symposium looking at the future of infant, child and adolescent psychiatry. This symposium raised the question of how to spread resources in innovative, generous, and different ways to try and reach the immense number of children needing help in other parts of the world.
The Congress in Dublin was an amazing event and a truly international event. There were around 1500 registrants, from 48 countries around the world, representing all continents. I felt that there was a constant buzz of excitement around the Dublin Convention Centre which was a wonderful containing and sharing space. We met our colleagues in person, many of whom we had not seen for a long time. Moving from a small meeting room to the larger halls to the plenary session and into the amazing space overlooking the Liffey River, it was very much like old times… and new times meeting new friends from many countries. I certainly learnt very much from each presenter, from the small Brief Oral Presentation (BOP) sessions and the posters sessions, right through to the Symposia, Workshops, and Plenary sessions.
One crucial theme that emerged for me over the whole course of the Congress was how important it is for us to commit more effort to work alongside vulnerable communities around the world who have minimal resources with which to confront serious mental health problems. We have a challenge for future congresses and meetings to enable colleagues from less well-resourced countries to join us in equal numbers with equal voice. The traumatic impact of colonisation and racism was a theme that wove itself through the fabric of the Congress.
The Pre-Congress Institute “Embracing Diversity Informed Practice in Infant Mental Health across the Globe” set the scene for us to think deeply about caring for all communities of infants, families, and professionals, while building respect, compassion, and creativity. It’s very clear that with climate change there will be an increase in terrifying natural disasters and WAIMH is working towards more effective collaboration with colleagues and agencies who are active in such traumatic situations. There are many groups around the world, including oppressed and colonialised communities, who have suffered the disasters of war, trauma and racism.
Before and during the Congress a Global Crisis Working Group has been set up to build cooperative networks to support our colleagues.
People often say how friendly, passionate, and supportive the WAIMH Congresses are. An example of this collegiality was the symposium, “Mentoring in Infant Mental Health”, commemorating a WAIMH pioneer Robert Emde. With the generous support of the Two Lilies Foundation and Jane West, David Oppenheim invited three pairs of IMH mentors and mentees, clinicians and researchers, to talk about the experience of learning and growing together across borders and over time. I believe this symposium represented the legacy of Bob Emde in helping bridge huge resource and knowledge gaps across the world, leading us to the essence of the aims of WAIMH. But we have much to do.
Our next Congress will be coming earlier than usual as we will meet again in one year in Tampere, Finland for an Interim WAIMH Congress. It will be from 5 to 7 June 2024, in the Finnish summer. There was a long interval between the Congress in Rome in 2018, then connecting largely virtually in Brisbane in 2021, until we met in person in 2023 Dublin. Next year we will resume our pattern of a WAIMH Congress occurring in the even years. You will be very welcome in Tampere, where we will have invited speakers, with an open call for Poster presentations.
In Perspectives, you will read more about the important issues in infant mental health, how we may be able to help globally, the activities of WAIMH and how you can contribute. Thanks to the very creative editor Maree Foley, Geneva, and to Salisha Maharaj our assistant editor from Cape Town, and our Tampere team. Please send your contributions and read all about it!
I really look forward to catching up with you all again in 2024 in Finland, the homeland of our very hard-working WAIMH Executive and Office team. See you soon…! Nähdään pian!
Campbell Paul, Melbourne, Australia
President of WAIMH, Associate Professor, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Centre