The evidence is clear: good mental health begins at birth.
In response, ECU has established a course specialising in infant mental health – the first of its kind in WA.
From 2016 a Master of Infant Mental Health course will be offered focusing on the emotional development of young children and their families.
Course coordinator Professor Lynn Priddis said the one year course had been developed to suit professionals already working with infants, young children and their families across many service areas.
“The course is ideally suited to people working in the fields of early childhood education, nursing, occupational therapy, paediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry, psychology, social work and speech pathology,” she said.
“There is a global trend towards recognising how important infant mental health is to wellbeing later in life. The World Bank said in 2013 that a failure to invest in early childhood development is costly to both individuals and society.
“This has been recognised by the WA Government’s Mental Health Commission who supported the launch of workforce competency guidelines earlier this year. The guidelines recommend infant mental health training be provided to everyone who works with young children and their families, including early learning workers, nurses, teachers and social workers.”
By the time children reach school age and enter the education system, they can already be lagging far behind their peers, according to Professor Priddis.
“The WA Education Department has recognised this by establishing Child and Parent Centres at 16 schools to work with parents and their children from birth to the age of four,” she said.
A key element of the Master of Infant Mental Health will focus on helping parents foster a secure and attuned emotional bond with their babies and it will sit alongside the new competency guidelines providing a clear up to date and evidence based training path for workers.
“The relationship a child develops with their parents forms the foundation of all future relationships,” Professor Priddis said.
“If we can support and nurture this relationship children are more likely to develop stable, positive relationships as adults. An example of this support is helping new mothers who may be having trouble feeding their babies or getting them to sleep or new fathers who are unsure how to best help their families.
“Being a new parent can be a stressful time, but if we can help by providing evidence based advice about how best to navigate those early years we can hopefully alleviate some of this stress, which will benefit both parents and children.
“This course will provide you with the skills and confidence to help families through this developmentally important phase.”
Applications for the Master of Infant Mental Health are now open.
Visit the course website for more information and to apply.