Irene’s Ghost is an award winning feature documentary about a son’s search for information about his mother he never knew. The birth of his own child inspires a journey to discover the truth about Irene, who passed away when he was a child. Piecing together fragments of the past to make sense of the present he uncovers a long held secret. Using animation mixed with filmed footage Irene’s Ghost movingly rebuilds a lost life.

It’s an emotional detective story revolving around a family secret, which opens up into a study of memory, mental health, identity and the bonds of love and friendship.

Irene’s Ghost launched in UK cinemas with a Q and A tour from 3 May 2019.

Vicky Gilroy, Projects and Evaluation Lead, Institute of Health Visiting, attended the screening launch this week and said:

The film is so moving and conveyed some really important messages about Iain’s journey to discover what had really happened to his mother. The sensitive, but also human, approach he took to the film I feel helped it to speak and connect to the audience, showing the reality of living with the impact of maternal mental health for Iain and his family. The film raises the significant and enduring stigma of mental health in society and how he connects with his past and father were beautifully portrayed. The importance of creating understanding and support for families is emphasised. Personally I would encourage wider showings of the film as it has relevance to society as a whole.

The Q&A session was emotional, hearing the lived experience of a mother who has had post-partum psychosis gave further impact and relevance to the illness Irene had experienced many years ago.

The film has just been awarded Best Feature Documentary at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, and is being screened there today, 4 May 2019, in Glasgow at the GFT: GFT Tickets. The festival has just published a Q&A with Iain, that you may be interested in reading.

Check for tickets and new screenings

The iHV has been delighted to work with Victoria Macdonald, Health and Social Care Correspondent at Channel 4 News, to make a short film on the complex role of the health visitor in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PIMH) and how the recent cuts to the public health budgets are impacting on the mental health care from health visitors that families may receive. The film is due to be broadcast on Channel 4 news this evening (Wed 4 April) between 7pm and 8pm. 

Update 5/4/18: Link to the film has been added at the bottom of this news story.

Melita Walker, iHV, being interviewed by Victoria Macdonald from Channel 4 news

Victoria has worked for almost 20 years with Channel 4 and is a fantastic advocate for the mental health of women and their families. We are very grateful for her commitment to improving perinatal and infant mental health and look forward to her opening the iHV’s first national multi-agency PIMH Conference (24 April in Manchester) to talk about her experiences of the hidden challenges in PIMH.

Time to develop quality relationships between health visitors and parents is key to public acceptability and effectiveness for promoting sensitive and responsive parenting and to parents disclosing emotional vulnerability when experiencing mental distress. Health visiting services should be staffed and organised in order to facilitate this (Cowley, et al., 2013).

The iHV would like to sincerely thank the team at Channel 4 News and all those who have been involved in supporting the making of this feature – in particular, City Health Care Partnership (CHCP) in Hull, CHCP health visitors Rebecca Price, Debbie Jackson, Fiona Nevet and Shirley Simpson who were absolutely fantastic and kindly gave up their time to support the filming in Hull. Also Mark Edwards, health visitor and Mental Health Advisor, University of Central Lancashire. Mostly, of course, our thanks go to the mums and their families who, in the hope of improving care for families and raising parity of esteem for mental health in the perinatal period, shared their own personal experiences on camera – Jane, Heidi and Dana, we really can’t thank you enough!


Shirley Simpson being interviewed by Victoria Macdonald from Channel 4 news

Hannah Bissett, Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), commented:

“As the national charity for women and families affected by Postpartum Psychosis, we are excited to hear about the iHV feature on Channel 4 this evening with Victoria Macdonald, including our volunteer Jane. Through our partnership with the iHV, Jane and other volunteers have shared their experiences of postpartum psychosis during iHV’s Perinatal Champions training to add the voice of lived experience to this vital area”.

From left: Shirley Simpson, Rebecca Price, Melita Walker and Victoria Macdonald

From left: Shirley Simpson, Rebecca Price, Melita Walker and Victoria Macdonald

Update 5/4/18:

The new “Eating Disorders in Pregnancy” animation launched this week (during Eating Disorders week).

iHV has worked with the Greater Manchester and North West Coast iHV PIMH Champions Forum, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London and others to develop the research base for eating disorders in the perinatal period. Eating Disorders are a serious mental illness, characterised by disturbance of eating that significantly impairs health and psychosocial functioning.

Eating disorders affect approximately 7.5% of pregnant women and can impact on maternal and infant outcomes. Researchers at King’s College London have translated research on eating disorders during pregnancy and motherhood into practical training resources to help healthcare professionals provide the best care for pregnant women and mothers.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting, said:

“It’s been a real pleasure for the Institute and its Perinatal and Infant  Mental Health Champions to work with the Institute of Psychiatry team to help them undertake this research and produce this superb new resource. We hope that it will be disseminated and used widely to raise awareness of eating disorders amongst all health professionals working with women in the perinatal period.”

Follow the twitter chat at #EDandPregnancy and follow on twitter at @EDandPregnancy


iHV invites you to watch a short maternal mental health film and make a REAL difference to people’s lives all in less than 5 minutes …..

Best Beginnings’ powerful film “My Mental Health Matters” has been nominated for a Charity Film Award. The winner is chosen by PUBLIC VOTE and voting closes on Wednesday 30 November.  We would like to help Best Beginnings to win – and invite you to help too!

In 3 simple steps, you can help encourage THOUSANDS of people to watch this important film and increase Best Beginnings’ chances of winning.

Here’s what we’d love you to do:

  1. Watch the film
  2. VOTE
  3. Forward the link to your friends and family and ask them to vote too!

Whether you are young or old, have kids or not, have experienced mental health challenges or not, you can be part of the incredible group of people who are showing the world that maternal mental health matters.

Together we ARE making a difference for future generations.

New programme reinforces the importance of the profession in the face of government cuts

The vital role that health visitors play in children’s health outcomes has been reinforced by a news-style report programme.

The programme was developed by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) in collaboration with a partnership between the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and ITN Productions.

It details the breadth of challenges health visitors respond to and the skill required to do so. These include supporting families facing issues ranging from poverty and housing to domestic violence and postnatal depression. Health visitors’ key role is to ensure every child receives the best possible start in life.

Introduced by national newsreader, Natasha Kaplinsky, the programme forms part of ‘The Public’s Health Across The Life Course’ series, coordinated by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and produced by ITN Productions. The series brings to life the journey from cradle to grave and the key public health professionals who make a difference in that period.

The iHV’s programme’s release comes at a crucial time. Health visiting numbers have fallen significantly in England in the last two years, as a result of cuts to public health budgets. This has triggered a restructuring of children’s services by local authorities.

iHV’s executive director, Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, said:

“Through making this programme, we want to raise awareness of the consequences of the on-going cuts to health visitor numbers in England – and the impact on children and families. Health visitors are a critical cog in each child’s journey to adulthood and work to improve public health outcomes for all children, helping to reduce health inequalities across the UK.

“The iHV was delighted to work with the Royal Society of Public Health and ITN Productions partnership to produce such an important programme which visually demonstrates the vital role and impact of health visitors.”

She added:

“Children’s needs seem to have become invisible among the many competing demands being made on the government and the NHS. We want ministers and commissioners to understand that we cannot afford not to invest in our children’s health. They are our future!

“I want to thank Whittington Health and Haringey Children’s Community Service for their support in making this film and all the health visitors and parents who made it possible.”