This year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 13 to 19 June on the theme of “Understanding Early Trauma”.
It is an annual opportunity to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health as well as some of the issues that affect it.
The Parent-Infant Foundation in Britain, which sets the theme for Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, said: “The experiences we have in the earliest years of our lives impact the development of our brains.
“Experiencing trauma, such as exposure to domestic abuse, in the earliest years can have a significant impact on brain development, potentially leaving serious and lasting consequences that can create difficulties for the child into their adult years.
“This is not inevitable. Secure relationships with parents and carers can reduce stress caused by trauma and limit the long-term impact it has on the baby’s development. Specialist support can help to strengthen these relationships and reduce the harms to babies.”
Sadly, one source of trauma continues to be war and violence – not only in Ukraine, but in Afghanistan, Palestine, Myanmar, Yemen, Sudan, Ethiopia and beyond.
The World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) reports that of the 26 million refugees worldwide, over half are children.
“The devastating effect this has on people is seen on our screens with stories of loss and pain. Infants, toddlers and young children are not able to tell their stories, but their trauma is profound.
“The needs and rights of all children are the same everywhere: nutritious food, adequate healthcare, a decent education, shelter and a secure and loving family. These are disregarded at times of war.”
A parent or caregiver who is suffering from the psychological effects of trauma may be less able to provide infants, toddlers, and young children with what they need.
“The effects of war thus reverberate through all the layers of care on which the physical and emotional survival and growth of the young child depends.”
Meanwhile, governments elsewhere are turning their attention to infant mental health.
In Victoria, for example, the state government is investing in a new online parenting program to support families and children with emerging mental health and wellbeing needs.
The free program will equip parents and carers of children, from birth to 11-years-old, with skills to respond positively and effectively to early mental health challenges, ensuring both children and parents are supported during early childhood development.