Coventry and Warwickshire Parent and Infant Mental Health Conference 2020

A conference to improve awareness of perinatal support across Coventry and Warwickshire has put local parents at the heart of change to reduce stigma surrounding mental health.

The Parent- Infant Mental Health and Well-being Conference was held on 5th February in Coventry to bring together professionals and parents through a series of workshop as well as national expert speakers. It was part of the Local Maternity System that works to develop and transform maternity services, ensuring mothers and babies in the area receive the best quality of care.

As a key component of the conference, the workshops focused on discussions from parents and professionals about how communication and language towards local families throughout the stages of antenatal, postnatal and birth could be improved. Activities also included looking at real life antenatal and postnatal scenarios from perspectives of both parents and professionals to enable attendees to freely share their experiences and provide feedback without judgement.

The feedback will be used by all professional groups involved in the parent infant mental health workstream to better recognise early identification of areas for support to improve the outcomes for parents and their infants in the future across Coventry and Warwickshire.

Councillor Les Caborn, portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Health at Warwickshire County Council said:

“This conference is a fantastic way of bringing multi-agency professionals and parents together across Coventry and Warwickshire, to hear about the latest research and developments in Parent-Infant Mental Health and Wellbeing, and to help shape local services and support that better meet the emotional wellbeing needs of new parents and families. We all need to talk about family mental health and wellbeing. The more we do this, the more parents will feel comfortable to reach out and access support from friends, family or services.”

Councillor Kamran Caan, portfolio holder for Public Health and Sport at Coventry City Council said:

“Supporting parents in our city is a key priority for Coventry City Council and this conference is a testament to that. Mental illness can be a common complication for parents during the perinatal period, but it is often over looked or not given the attention that it deserves due to barriers in communications and existing stigmas that prevent women and their families getting the best outcomes to change their lives.

“Therefore, this conference marks a commitment to raising awareness of among parents about the support available to them, but better equipping our frontline health professionals to recognise early signs of perinatal mental illness.”

Emily van de Venter, Associate Director of Public Health for South Warwickshire CCG and Warwickshire County Council said:

“How we communicate and how we break down the barriers around perinatal mental illness has been at the heart of what this conference is about.

“Parents need to feel confident that they can approach health professionals they come in to contact with and that all types of perinatal mental health issues are recognised, assessed and appropriately managed. Therefore, having professionals and parents in the same room is so important in getting that conversation flowing and opening up a channel for listening and learning.”

Expert guest speakers included Dr Alain Gregoire, Consultant and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Perinatal Psychiatry, Chair of Maternal Mental Health Alliance UK and Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health; Dr Beckie Lang, CEO of Parent Infant Partnership; Catherine Boot, Artistic Director of Can’t Sit Still theatre company; and Nuneaton born Iain Cunningham, film maker, director and writer of documentary ‘Irene’s Ghost’.

They gave a national overview of the importance of perinatal mental health and parent infant relationships with more than 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers facing mental health challenges including stress, anxiety and depression, during pregnancy and a child’s early years. Unaddressed these may impact on bonding and attachment between parent/s and infant and can have lasting impacts on child and adult mental health.

The day finished with a public screening of Iain Cunninghan’s documentary, ‘Irene’s Ghost’, where he talks to people who knew his late mum in a search to find the truth about what happened to her.

New and expectant parents can access extra advice and support and find out what activities and childcare is available through the Warwickshire Family Information Service