Joint statement between The Western Australian branch of the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH WA) and Ngala for Mental Health Week 9-16 October 2021
14th October 2021 – Mental Health Week is celebrated between 9-16 October around World Mental Health Day on 10th October. This year, in Western Australia the theme for Mental Health Week is “Mental health starts with our children”.
This theme is important, especially to AAIMH and Ngala, because it recognises how we support babies and children to develop well from their earliest days, helps them to thrive and be physically and mentally healthy throughout their lives
When babies and children have positive mental health, wellbeing and strong foundational relationships they can learn and develop in ways that set a strong foundation for the rest of their lives
All Western Australian children deserve to have what they need to develop well now and into the future no matter where they live and from the very start of life.
This will allow them to form close, supportive and loving relationships that enable them to learn to experience, express and balance their emotions so they can explore and learn.
How babies and children grow and develop in their early years influences their health and wellbeing throughout their life. Helping parents to feel confident and making sure they are equipped with the right skills requires services that can tailor their supports based on each families unique needs.
Positive interactions with important adults in their life is vital for babies and children’s brains to grow and develop and to support them to feel safe and cared for.
What you can do
Watch and listen to our babies and children to better understand their needs so we can respond in ways that are helpful to them
Sing, talk, read, cuddle and respond to babies and children’s distress and provide a calm consistent response that enables them to express a range of emotions.
Fathers and Mothers both have important roles in supporting their child’s healthy development so it is important that both Fathers and Mothers have access to what they need to be mentally and physically well. Babies and children are more likely to thrive when their parents are supported and parent as a team
Babies and children develop through their close relationships with the important people in their lives. This starts with parents and family and extends to friends and other community members as they grow. Having a range of community supports nearby that are easy to access helps children grow well.
The Australian Association of mental health have produced an infographic 3 reasons why good infant mental health matters https://www.aaimh.org.au/AAIMHI-AUS_IMH-Matters-Infographic-2019.pdf
- It affects how our brain grows and develops. What happens early in life can provide a strong base that supports a lifetime of creativity, learning, wellbeing, and being connected to community. Predictable routines and caregivers who respond to a baby’s needs provide the base for a baby to feel safe to explore and learn.
- It effects our body and our health and wellbeing across our life. Babies and children experience stress just like the rest of us. Affection and protective caregiving shields babies and children from levels of stress that can disrupt brain and physical development and make learning more difficult
- It affects our behaviours and our relationships. Feeling loved and cared for is a secure attachment is essential for wellbeing. Sensitive and responsive caregivers support babies and young children to learn to calm and self-regulate. Children need relationships with sensitive caregivers to self-regulate, get along with others, solve problems, and be productive
AAIMH WA promotes and supports the optimal social and emotional development of infants and young children (from conception to 5 years of age) and their families, within the context of nurturing relationships. Our key focus is to support the West Australian workforce in helping to give young children and their families the best possible start during the important early years of children’s lives.
Ngala, WA’s leading early child development and parent support community service organisation, provides a range of early intervention, community and children’s services designed to enhance the wellbeing and development of children and young people. Ngala’s services extend across WA, with offices based in Perth, Geraldton and Carnarvon. Ngala’s Residential Parenting Service and statewide Parenting Line are based in Kensington, ensuring ongoing support for parents and providing critical early detection and intervention services. Ngala supports families throughout all stages of a child’s life, striving to ensure that parents have knowledge about their child’s development, critical for effective parenting and to achieve the best outcomes for their child.
- Zero to Three Taskforce. Definition of Infant Mental Health. Washington DC : Zero to Three Infant Mental Health Steering Committee, 2001. https://www.zerotothree.org/
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/