Engaging Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) in Setting the Foundation for an Integrated Model of Perinatal Mental Health Care
Maternal mental health issues during pregnancy and throughout the first year after delivery (the perinatal period) affect the mother, the newborn, and the whole family. The newborn’s health may be affected as the quality of mother-child interaction influence how the infant’s brain develops, providing the foundation for physical and mental health and well-being throughout the lifespan. Our literature search revealed that NL has one of the highest rates of perinatal mental health issues in Canada (1 in 4 mothers compared to the Canadian average of 1 in 5), and more than half of these mothers do no receive appropriate treatment or follow-up. The empirical research about existing supports and services in NL showed to be fragmented and in need of enhancement. Consequently, our public engagement project aimed to complement our (NL SUPPORT funded) research dissemination activities in partnership with Perinatal Program NL (PPNL) and Daybreak Parent Child Centre (DPCC). Specifically, with the Public Engagement Accelerator Fund, we were able to coordinate several knowledge mobilization events to inform stakeholders of the issues at stake (for mothers, babies, family members and the population as a whole), if the care of women with perinatal mental health issues is not improved. The activities were also designed to motivate events participants to identify viable solutions and propose recommendations through collaboration and networking. Knowledge moblization included among other initiatives a Town Hall event, a Deliberative Workshop, webinars, a documentary screening, and an online Forum. These events provided a venue to heighten awareness, and provide sustainable strategies for an integrated system of perinatal health care programs, supports, and services. Additionally, the 2019 events facilitated the launch of the “Perinatal Mental Health Alliance NL,” composed of leaders in medicine, nursing, social work, public administration and other allied-health professionals, in the university, health care, government, Family Resource Centres, not-for-profit organizations, civil society, as well as mothers with lived-experience. The Alliance was created to raise the profile of this issue in the province and is open to any stakeholder willing to engage in moving forward an agenda to enhance the current provincial model of perinatal mental health care and support services. For example, the last public engagement event was hosted by the PMHA-NL on October 27-29, 2020 and the second morning was focused on engaging participants province-wide, split into groups, in a Strategic Doing facilitation process to deliver and commit to work on achievable action projects. These action projects are in key areas (advocacy, service delivery, research, education and professional development), addressed to promote an integrated model of perinatal mental health care in our province.