Infant Mental Health Awareness Week

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 

Tweddle’s Screening of Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope on Thursday 13th of June saw more than 140 people gather to learn about Adverse Childhood Experiences, Infant Mental Health and Protective Factors.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week has become an annual global initiative held in June.  It invites Government, industry and consumers to consider the distinct needs of babies and toddlers and to invest in the services that support parents and carers in the early years.

Joining the Tweddle Board, Management and staff were special guests including Professor Campbell Paul, President-Elect of the WAIMH Board of Directors and consultant infant psychiatrist at the Royal Children’s Hospital and Royal Women’s Hospital.

Tweddle Board Member of twelve years and ex Chair Dr. Nicole Milburn, recognised the achievements of Associate Professor Brigid Jordan who through her roles with the Royal Children’s Hospital Health and Social Work Departments, as well as the MCRI and the University of Melbourne, focused much attention on the needs of babies and toddlers. Tweddle Chairperson Doris Whitmore thanked Dr Milburn for her long service to Tweddle.

People came together to see the award-winning documentary and learn more about ACEs, now understood to be one of the leading contributing causes of heart disease, cancer, substance abuse and depression.

Tweddle CEO Jacquie O’Brien reminded guests that for ACES to be understood, parents needed support, follow up and links to community resources. Parents and their children also benefited from being asked questions about their past as is the case with Tweddle’s intake and assessment process. As the documentary highlighted, the earlier we help, the better. “The child may not remember, but the body remembers.”

RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE, is a film which chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.

Difficult Beginnings was the theme for Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.  Difficult beginnings are what many babies and toddlers are experiencing when they come to Tweddle with stressed and anxious mums, dads and carers.

RESILIENCE is a one-hour documentary using beautiful animation and pioneering individuals, that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent Toxic Stress. Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behaviour.

The original research was controversial, but the findings revealed the most important public health findings of a generation. RESILIENCE is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent Toxic Stress.

Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior.

However, as experts and practitioners profiled in RESILIENCE are proving, what’s predictable is preventable. These physicians, educators, social workers and communities are daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse and neglect. And they’re using cutting edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week – the origins

The inaugral Infant Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK was in 2016 when the charity Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK set out to raise a greater understanding for policy makers, professionals and parents about why giving every baby the best possible start in life matters to the life chances of children and families.

The World Association of Infant Mental Health Position Paper on the Rights of Infants includes the ‘Basic Principles of Infant Rights’ (Birth to three years of age) and highlights; “An all-too-common view is that the baby is “too small to really understand or to remember” and thus the baby’s perspective is often not appreciated by health professionals and even by parents.  Infants have unique nonverbal ways of expressing themselves and their capacities to feel, to form close and secure relationships, and to explore the environment and learn – all of which require appropriate nurturing since they are fundamental for building a lifetime of mental and physical health”

Improving the social and emotional welfare of babies and toddlers is vital for developing their capacity to experience and regulate emotions, form close and secure relationships and grow good mental health in childhood and throughout life.

Most of us know that there is a critical window of development that takes place in the first 1000 days where 80% of a child’s brain is developed. Relationships are crucial to babies during this period and are the building blocks for good mental health in childhood and throughout life.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week – Tweddle

Tweddle’s first Infant Mental Health Awareness Week event was a business breakfast in 2017. ‘Babies, Business and The Bottom Line’ explored the links between investment in the very early years and the skills needed for school, the workforce, relationships, sport and the community.

Western Bulldogs President Mr Peter Gordon and US Psychiatrist Dr Bruce Perry spoke about resilience, about the importance of early relationships and on striving to reach goals. Dr Perry reflected on the importance of empathy and how western society is experiencing material wealth yet a poverty of social and emotional opportunity.

We are grateful to have The Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP and Professor Ravi Savarirayan, clinical geneticist and Group Leader of Skeletal Biology and Disease at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in attendance.

Twedde’s Seminar on attachment, trauma and resilience ‘Babies’ Brains Matter’ featured a number of inspirational speakers including Tweddle’s Manager High Risk Programs, Louise Gawler, Paediatric Occupational Therapist Kristen Pringle and Dr Matthew Roberts, a Psychiatrist specialising in the area of infant mental health.

The seminar explored the impacts of traumatic stress on a baby’s developing brain and DNA, the importance of talking to babies and how a constantly distracted carer can be stressful for a baby. The topic of dads and programs for dads were discussed, as was how crucial it was that babies experience a sense of fun in the home.

Tweddle look forward to presenting further events and seminars with a focus on Infant Mental Health as part of the International movement to advocate for the rights of babies and toddlers.

We invite you to lend your voice to the Infant Mental Health Awareness movement by contacting our Communications Manager and signing the #BabiesBrainsMatter pledge.


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