World Mental Health Day
10 October 2019
Today, on World Mental Health Day, the Parent-Infant Foundation is bringing the mental health of babies to the conversation. Since the day was first created in 1992, amazing progress has been made to improve understanding of mental health and mental illness. Much still remains to be done, not least in recognising the mental health needs of often forgotten groups within society. For us, this is babies and very young children.
The concept of babies’ or infant mental health is a difficult one for many people to understand. Mental health is often thought of as mental illness, and babies cannot display many commonly diagnosed mental health problems. But babies can, and do, have mental health and mental health problems. They can experience distress, poor emotional wellbeing and relational trauma, although these may be difficult to identify when we do not understand babies’ cues and development.
Sadly, in our general conversation about mental health, the needs of babies and very young children are typically forgotten, even within our mental health system. Research for our Rare Jewels report earlier this year, showed that in 42% of CCG areas in England, children and young people’s mental health services will not take referrals for children aged under two. This is despite the fact that there should be services in place for children from zero to 18, and beyond.
Today – and every day – the Parent-Infant Foundation will be speaking up for babies’ emotional wellbeing and mental health. It is important in its own right, as well as being the foundation on which lifelong mental health and wellbeing builds. We’re working hard to ensure that those who plan, fund, commission and deliver mental health services in the UK think about the needs of babies and young children, in addition to older children, young people and adults. Our handout for NHS commissioning systems in England explains why they should consider the mental health of the youngest children in their five-year strategic plans.
There will be a lot of talk about mental health today, but we suspect very little mention of babies. Babies don’t have a voice. At the Parent-Infant Foundation, we’ll be speaking up for them and encouraging others to do the same.