Over 300,000 babies are born in Australia each year and giving them the best possible start in life is an important part of building mentally healthy future communities. Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, June 10-16, aims to raise awareness of how we can all contribute to making this happen.
Understanding infant mental health starts with seeing the world from a baby’s perspective and the ways they learn to think, feel and experience emotions. This week is a must for caregivers, offering insights to the psychological, emotional and social world of their babies and toddlers, and solutions to some of the challenges they may face.
What is Infant mental Health?
When we talk about infant mental health, we mean the capacity of a child between the ages of 0 to 3, to experience, regulate and express their emotions, form secure attachments, interact with their environment and learn from their surroundings.
Babies come into the world with an instinct to connect, and engage with their world. When the strengths, capabilities and vulnerabilities they are born with are not nurtured, or the baby or parent experiences stressors, it can impact the way the way the child relates and interprets experiences, and impair healthy development.
Why is this so important to understand?
Infancy is a time of rapid growth, when the baby’s brain and psychosocial skills develop in ways that will affect their health and wellbeing throughout their lifetime. Maintaining their mental health at this early stage of development is key to the prevention of mental health issues in childhood and ultimately adult life.
What do caregivers need to know?
Caregivers play a vital role in early detection and management of infant mental health issues and helping them to recognise the warning signs is a key objective of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week. Just 35% of Australian parents surveyed in a recent study were confident they would recognise signs of mental health challenges in their child and less than half knew where to seek support. In the interests of your infant’s life-long wellbeing, get involved and get to know the psychological, emotional and social markers to watch for.
Help is available!
With early intervention, infants can be given the support they need to thrive in life. Simple, day-to-day interactions like play, music and reading with your infant can buffer them from any adverse effects of stressors by letting them know they are safe and loved.
Flourish Australia’s Women & Children’s Program supports mums experiencing complex mental health issues, and the children in their care, to overcome stressors within a safe and nurturing environment. As part of their recovery, mums learn to tune into their child, develop parenting skills and build capacity for providing the Circle of Security they need, so that the family can thrive in their community.
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