“Can you help me?” Infant Mental Health Conference, Belfast, September 2017

Posted by    Therese on    September 29, 2017

Maeve attended the Association for Infant Mental Health (Northern Ireland) 5th Conference in Belfast on Wednesday 27th September 2017.

The Title of the conference was “Can You help Me?” Raising awareness and building understanding of resilience in babies, children, families and practitioners.

The event was oversubscribed and about 240 delegates attended - from a wide range of disciplines and services across Northern Ireland. As a member Maeve was fortunate to secure a place and enjoy the magnificent surroundings of Belfast City Hall for the day.

Maeve found it inspiring to be part of what felt like a real commitment and movement to ensure that Northern Ireland is the best place in the world to be born and be a child. 

The Public Health issue of Adverse Childhood experiences (ACES) was presented and explored.


The key take away for Maeve was how we need to be developing reflective practice to look after frontline practitioners who are committed and increasingly stretched and often working with families who have had Adverse Childhood experiences .This needs to be a fundamental aspect of every organisation who strive to ensure better outcomes for families and children.

Both Grainne Mc Hugh and Liz Davies from Sure Start, South Belfast, spoke about how they have set up and experienced support as practitioners in their team. This has involved 

     Investing in staff - this may involve financial commitment for ongoing training and development and reflective practice or supervision. It requires a recognition first of all of the responsibility of organisations to attend to staff well-being.

      Reflective practice - developing a culture of reflective practice - this ensures all members of the organisation, managers and workers have the space to reflect on their practice and to become increasingly self-aware and develop their capacity to be attuned workers and look after their won mental health and well being 

      Communication - the ability to listen and be “a container“ as described in Solihull approach, to provide a space where clients can talk about their worries and concerns and tell their story , whilst managing the boundaries and limitations of one’s role are important skills for work with clients and being part of a team .

      Managing Change - change which can be situational and not always of our own making and needs to be managed with support and information which provide resources to help those affected manage the transition and adjust and where possible have increased capability.

        Realistic expectations - Given the commitment and desire of frontline practitioner to make a difference and to enhance clients lives it can be difficult to boundary work and to ensure that practitioners do not get burnt out and overwhelmed or  disengaged and disillusioned working with complex case loads and issues which may be transgenerational. A balance and continuous review of the expectations of the commissioners team, individual worker, clients and families help balance and maintain perspective.


All of these factors help support practitioner resilience and help practitioners stay engaged and remain motivated and hopeful in their work.


Thanks for a great day. 



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