Infant and Early Mental Health Core Components

 

An overall goal for Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion (IEMHP) is to support communities in embedding in their policies, programs and practices, an understanding of the unique mental health needs of infants and young children. This may be called “infant and early mental health friendly (IEMHF)”. What is IEMHP’s role in supporting this and how can a community, or any agency or party, determine that they are IEMHF?

Through the funding and partnership with Kids Brain Health Network, IEMHP is working on exploring how to apply implementation science to this work. IEMHP was asked to identify “core components” that an individual, agency or community would need to engage with to be IEMHF.

 

The following are the “core components” the IEMHP team identified:

  1. System of care pathways for infant and early mental health – a clear path to infant and early mental health services that both families and practitioners can navigate. The pathway must reflect equitable access for all and an understanding of the diverse needs of families, and it must create for families a place where they can feel safe to share the concerns they may have about their child’s mental health.
  2. Resources and tools for strengthening infant and early mental health practice. The needs of babies, toddlers and preschoolers differ from older children and require different resources and tools rather than a “retrofitting” of tools for older children for younger children. Resources and tools being used must be evidence-informed and reflect best practices for infant and early mental health as well as be equitable in terms of access, reflect the diverse needs of families in Canadian communities, and be safe for practitioners and families to use (i.e. free of cultural bias and judgement).
  3. Leadership specific to infant and early mental health must be present within an individual, agency, community, or government. Infant and early mental health is challenging to “impose” on any community. An individual within an agency, community or government must express and demonstrate leadership for a strengthened approach to infant and early mental health.
  4. Knowledge and skill building through training and coaching regularly accessed by practitioners. Practitioners across many sectors, such as early learning and care, public health, child welfare, education, primary care, must be actively engaged in strengthening their knowledge and skills specific to infant and early mental health.
  5. Research and reporting on the efforts taken. This should include measuring knowledge, child outcomes, and policies.
 

In this work, IEMHP has a role in supporting the effort of individuals, agencies and communities to be IEMHF. IEMHP creates resources, training, and  tools to inform policy and practice. In addition, we undertake research that allows us to further evaluate all that we do to understand if it is meaningful, understandable and accessible.