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Promoting Mental Health starts in the Early Years


We are marking Infant Mental Health Week by highlighting the importance of giving children the best start in life by supporting lifelong mental and physical wellbeing.

Focus on mental health and wellbeing is often focussed on older children and although also important the Trust is using Infant Mental Health Week to ask parents to consider including infants in the conversation around mental health.

The foundation for mental health starts in infancy (0-3 years) and evidence shows that our earliest relationships and experiences shape how we relate to and interact with others for the rest of our life.

Infant Mental Health Week (7th – 13th June 2021) is held every year with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of babies’ social and emotional development and to give every baby the best possible start in life.

There are approximately 3,000 babies born each year across the WHSCT, and to ensure each of these babies is given the best start in life the Trust provides investment in training and innovative parenting programmes for early years as a priority.

We are committed to developing a modern skilled workforce to meet the changing needs of families and to ensure that women have the ability to meet skilled professionals across the whole perinatal mental health care pathway who have the skills, competencies and expertise that are required.

Practitioners in the WHSCT working with infants and young children are able to avail of specialist ‘M9’ training from the Tavistock and Portman Centre which is rooted in infant observation.

The Tavistock and Portman Centre a specialist mental health NHS Trust with a focus on training and education of mental health services and psychological therapies for children and their families, young people and adults.

This course aims to help practitioners gain an increased understanding of the factors which promote healthy development in infants and preschool age children and their families, as well as develop an understanding of the psychological problems which can affect this group.

Speaking about the Trusts focus during Infant Mental Health Week, Western Trust Principal Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Elaine Quaile, said:Infant Mental Health Week

“The family support service works with families and infants who have suffered traumatic or Adverse Childhood Experiences, including domestic violence.

“Child psychotherapists working with families find that symptoms in the infant are best treated by supporting the infant–parent relationship, rather than by treating either infant or parent separately.

“The inclusion of infants in our therapeutic work with families is an essential part of bonding and attachment in the early years and we would call on parents Infant Mental Health Week and beyond to give consideration to this fundamental component of their child’s development from the very start.”

Kevin Duffy, Assistant Director and chair of the Best Start in Life steering group is committed to supporting the early year’s agenda.

“The evidence is clear that investment in Early Intervention helps to promote and support future healthy development.