The inaugural Australian Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs 12-16 June 2017. Originally started in the United Kingdom in 2016 by the charity Parent Infant Partnership (PIPUK), the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) has brought the event to Australia with the aim to promote greater understanding of how good mental health begins in early childhood.
The week builds on the UK-based 1001 Days campaign. The campaign maintains that the first 1001 days from conception to the age two are the most important for a child’s development and looks to promote government policy that provides appropriate community support for parents to provide that care.
Early Learning Review spoke to AAIMHI president Sally Watson to gain a better understanding of the difference between infant and child mental health, as well as learning how early learning educators can play their part in helping infants in their care maintain and develop good mental health.
Some of the key areas Watson spoke about reflects the concerns of many parents. She mentioned how important it is to provide appropriate parental leave for parents to form secure bonds with their children. These bonds allow the children to develop optimal social, emotional and cognitive skills. She also argued that when children do go into childcare at a young age, it is important to have caregivers and early learning educators build healthy relationships with the infants.
Despite infants not being able to communicate verbally, Watson maintains that there are other ways to read their behaviour patterns to assess their mental health. These include infants being too independent, or not emotional enough with caregivers, nor seeking assistance when hurt. She said that if an infant doesn’t seek out a relationship with a caregiver this can be an early sign that the child needs extra support.
To hear the full interview with Watson discussing the week and her organisation listen to this podcast:Do you have an idea for a story?
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