Tweddle World Mental Health Day

Turning Around Difficult Beginnings for Infant Mental Health

Turning Around Difficult Beginnings for Infant Mental Health

By Kerrie Gottliebsen

June 10th – 16th is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (#IMHAW19). During this time, Tweddle join health professionals, academics, peak bodies and organisations from around the world in a global movement to greatly improve the health of future generations.

Tweddle 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 critical first 1000 days of life.

This year’s IMHAW focus is ‘Difficult Beginnings. As a state wide early intervention and prevention health service dedicated to supporting families experiencing difficult beginnings, we see this year’s focus as fundamental to the social and emotional health of children for life.

There are many parenting challenges that compound to create or escalate a difficult beginning in infant-parent relationship. These difficult beginnings can disrupt attachment.

Studies show that even in the earliest months of life, very young babies are trying to make sense of what they are seeing and hearing all around them. This means that when parents experience ongoing, significant stress, babies absorb it.

Difficult beginnings for a baby can occur when a parent or carer has unresolved experiences of past trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or are living with one or more of the following challenges;

Mental illness, social and geographical isolation, bonding and attachment difficulties, feeding difficulties, severe financial difficulties, separation, family violence, an acute health condition, multiple children, history of child abuse or neglect, substance or alcohol misuse, disability, unstable housing, parent without support and teenage parenting.

68% of referrals to Tweddle are from the Maternal and Child Health network, 20% are from GPs and 12% are from family services. Referral pathways to specialist residential early parenting support services like Tweddle’s are critical in ensuring ACES are identified so that parents are supported to deal with past trauma and babies and toddlers are prioritised.

It is assumed that infants and toddlers with mental health challenges will grow out of their symptoms despite evidence that shows symptoms that emerge early in life often persist into adolescence and adulthood.

Tweddle employ experienced clinicians who identify signs of adult and child relational disruption, attachment disorders, trauma and mental illness in infants and parents. For ACES to be understood, parents need support, follow up and connections to community resources. The earlier the better.

Experts around the world agree that adversity in early childhood produces inequality in ability, achievement, health and adult success. The Harvard Centre on the Developing Child assert that policy and practice should concentrate on three key principles; Supporting responsive relationships for children and adults; Strengthen life skills and; Reduce sources of stress in the lives of children and families.

There are many things parents can do to relieve stress and ameliorate difficult beginnings for babies and toddlers; regular sleep, nutrition, exercise, practicing mindfulness, cultivating healthy relationships and seeking support from early parenting support specialists like Tweddle, a GP or a Maternal and Child Health Nurse.

To celebrate Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, Tweddle is screening RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE on Thursday the 13th of June at 4.30. 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.

For more information about tickets visit the to see the trailer visit https://www.tweddle.org.au/infant-mental-health-awareness-week/

 


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