Do we need a Nordic Alliance for perinatal mental health?
Theme: Perinatal mental health
About one in five mothers and one in ten fathers has mental health problems during the perinatal period, that is the first 1001 days of the child. The unborn or newly born child adapts to its stressful environment, which helps the baby to cope in that environment, but causes a risk for mental, behavioral and attachment problems in future. If perinatal mental health problems occur, both the parent and the baby need help. Professionals need collaboration with the social contacts of the family and other professionals to provide adequate treatment for the parent-child-dyad.
To gain proper knowledge and skills, professionals also need scientific knowledge from researchers and education from other practitioners. Both the family and the professionals need a chain of professionals: from the detection of risk factors and problems to psychiatric treatment, obstetric care, parent-child early interaction support, social care, and parenting support, and preparing for upcoming pregnancies. Breaks in this chain causes stress, prolongation of treatment, more adverse outcomes for the child, and elevated financial costs for the family and society.
The multi-professional chain forms a safe circle around the family. A collaboration of professionals and decision makers forms a safe circle around practitioners. This collaboration should work together to achieve evidence-based treatment guidelines, build treatment paths, and enable the efficient multi-professional work with the families. It is essential that perinatal psychiatry (adult psychiatry) and infant psychiatry (child psychiatry) work closely together. Knowledge and practices vary across areas and countries. International collaboration helps each country and municipality to build their best practices.
Suitable structures are needed to achieve on-going collaboration and discussion within professionals and experts from experience. The International Marcé Society has built an international network of perinatal mental health experts to share knowledge. The association has spread to local branches of which the Nordic Marcé Society is one example of. Dozens of different local organizations working within the specialty of perinatal mental health also exist. How to share knowledge between different organizations? The UK and Global Maternal Mental Health Alliances have collected the organizations to form alliances in order to influence decision makers, which they have managed to achieve: the UK alliance has convinced the British parliament to invest in perinatal psychiatric units.
In the year 2019 the Finnish Perinatal Mental Health association was founded. It includes individual professionals, such as psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, obstetricians, nurses, health nurses, midwives, psychologists, social care professionals, researchers, and trained experts by experience. It also includes professionals who represent their organizations, such as the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, The Federation of Mothers and Child Shelters and Homes, The Trauma Center Finland, The Finnish Parent-Infant Psychotherapy Association, and The Äimä ry (peer support organization). After existing for 3 years, the Association now includes over 200 members. It has provided low-cost webinars for professionals, written several guidelines for professionals, statements for decision makers, and provided material for clinical practice.
The next step would be the Nordic Alliance for Perinatal Mental Health. There have been discussions and preliminary plans on the development of the Alliance with Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish professionals. It has been proposed that instead of collecting all individual organizations within the Nordic Countries in one alliance, more efficient way of working could be “an alliance of alliances”, so that each country would form national perinatal mental health associations/alliances, and the Nordic Alliance would be the joint forum for the national organizations to share their knowledge to build better perinatal mental health in the Nordic area. We encourage our Nordic colleagues to form National alliances for perinatal mental health and to join the conversation about the need for the Nordic Alliance for Perinatal Mental Health. Please, do not hesitate to contact us. □