Mental health in infancy

Document type
Guidance
Corporate author(s)
Young Minds (Organization)
Publisher
YoungMinds
Date of publication
1 February 2004
Subject(s)
Mental health services, Families
Collection
Social welfare
Material type
Reports

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This document provides an outline of the importance of mental health services for infants and some of the key areas surrounding such services. Babies do not exhibit the classic symptoms of mental illness and disorder and thus the importance of mental health services in infancy is not well understood. But babies do demonstrate through, for example, poor sleep patterns, difficulties with feeding, restlessness and gastric disturbance, that they are anxious and tense, distressed and fearful. These emotions need to be responded to with love and empathy by those on whom they depend for survival. Supporting families to provide this response is essential, in order to reduce the incidence of mental health problems and their consequences in later life.

The quality of the relationship between infants and their parents has profound implications for their emotional and cognitive development as well as their future mental health. The secure child is more likely to do well at school, form satisfying relationships, develop the capacity for compassion and empathy, and have an inherent resilience in the face of misfortune. In order for more children to have a good start in life, one they will eventually hand on to their own children, then the mental health needs of infants and their parents must be given the highest priority.

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