The promotion, protection and restoration of mental health are foundational to healthy communities. However, most mental health services in Canada, already underfunded in comparison to hospital-based medical-surgical programs, continue to be focused on providing reactive acute care. Mental health problems in later life often have their roots in the prenatal, infancy and early childhood life periods, and considerable evidence has accumulated about the effectiveness of interventions during this period of time. Although public health nurses (PHNs) play a leadership role in Canada in developing and providing programs that promote mental health in the early years, much of this work is largely invisible. This paper describes the concept of infant and early childhood mental health, identifies key national policies, and explores the role of PHNs in supporting mental wellness for infants and families, in keeping with health equity and Indigenous perspectives. Canadian practice exemplars are provided to highlight the value of investing in the promotion of infant and early childhood mental health.
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