10th October 2022
On World Mental Health Day (10 October), we are delighted to share a Voices Blog by Melita Graham, Head of Mental Health at the Institute of Health Visiting, on making mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority.
The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year.
The theme of World Mental Health Day 2022, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority‘.
This theme aligns very closely with the values and mission of the iHV mental health department and the health visiting approach to enabling good mental health for all by prioritising family mental health and wellbeing. Health visitors know that mental health is complex, does not occur in isolation, and that a whole “think family’ approach is needed if we are to achieve a mentally well society. They know that both the human and economic argument for a universal public mental health approach makes sense – and that supporting parental mental wellbeing and the parent infant-relationship is the best foundation for good mental health across the life-course, and indeed good societal mental health.
To achieve this, health visitors work in partnership across systems at all stages of need to support mental health and wellbeing, from prevention, health promotion, offering evidence-based interventions and onward referral, coordination, and continuing support to when more specialist services are needed.
Globally and nationally, families continue to experience widening inequalities, and the cost-of-living crisis here in the UK deepens as uncertainty over being able to meet the very basic needs for health and wellbeing are a very real worry for so many families. We know that the cumulative effects of the pandemic, global instability and national socio-economic factors mean a rise in need for mental health support, alongside deepening workforce challenges. We know that health visitors are passionate and committed to doing their very best to ensure that families do get the right help and support they need, and we want to thank you for showing up every day and making a difference.
Recently I was privileged to attend and present at the International Marcé Society Conference which welcomed delegates from over 100 different countries from around the world. The Marcé is an international, interdisciplinary organisation dedicated to supporting research and assistance surrounding prenatal and postpartum mental health for mothers, fathers and their babies. There were presentations from all around the world and, despite the different settings that stories and research were told from, I was really taken with how much in common we all had in respect of current thinking. There was such a strong valuing of the importance of early intervention, inequalities, public health and prevention. I think that the pandemic really has pushed consciousness forward in relation to the importance of all families having access to the right care and support to enable good family mental health and wellbeing.
The symposium which I chaired at the International Marcé Society Conference shared the work of the iHV Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Champions as “place-based leaders enabling whole scale change”. Whole-Scale Change is the creation of change in organisations, networks and communities that requires the active involvement, energy, ideas, and commitment of multiple stakeholders in order to be long lasting, effective and successful. I was delighted to have been joined by three of the iHV’s longstanding, talented partners and Champions of family mental health: Dr Clare Laws, Director at the Centre for Early Child Development in Blackpool; Kieran Anders from Dad Matters; and Jane Fisher, University of Central Lancashire.
The symposium showcased and examined the different ways in which health visitors and other Champions, working in partnership with parents and other professionals, support family mental health. Themes raised in the symposium included: the importance of multi-agency working; the value of place-based approaches; and co-production to create, evolve and drive whole scale system change to achieve good family mental health and wellbeing.
It was incredibly humbling and inspiring to share and reflect on all the amazing changes that health visitors and their partner Champions have driven.
The UK is often cited as being a world leader in perinatal and infant mental health – and we have no doubt that health visitors and iHV Champions have been a massive part of the success. Sometimes, especially when there are significant challenges, it can be hard to keep in mind the distance travelled – and today, on World Mental health Day, I invite you to look back and see just how far we have progressed in terms of family mental health care in the UK.
We hope you are proud of all the changes you have made, the sometimes seemingly small everyday wins, the successes you have driven, for putting your head (again) above the parapet to champion the rights of families and, in spite of difficult times, for having the courage to continue to make the difference that we know all families deserve.
Certainly, sharing your story at the Marcé, we could not have been prouder.
A final word on World Mental Health Day – Do make sure you make the time to prioritise your own mental health and wellbeing!