11th June 2021
In support of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 June 2021 – #IMHAW21 #IncludingInfants), a Voices Blog by Melanie Farman Development Manager, Centre for Early Child Development and Tracy Greenwood Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust.
This week is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 June) and the theme is including infants in children and young people’s mental health. There is a “baby blindspot” and the goal of this year’s IMHAW is to encourage everyone to think and talk about infant, children and young people’s mental health, and to consider how babies’ mental health needs can be met.
In 2015, Blackpool was chosen as one of only five locations in the UK to receive National Lottery Community funding of £45 million to help give the town’s babies a better start in life. The Blackpool Better Start partnership has made a commitment to support and enable the emotional wellbeing of our babies and youngest children. The vision is for all babies in Blackpool to have a sensitive, nurturing relationship with their main caregiver, to lay the foundation for lifelong physical and mental health. One way to achieve this is through our community-based approach to improving infant mental health.
There are four components to this approach:
- our universal antenatal education programme – Baby Steps
- peer support through the community connector team
- engagement of local dads
- our enhanced health visiting service. Between November 2016 and March 2018, Blackpool Better Start invested £1 million into transforming the health visiting service across the town. Blackpool families now receive at least eight visits from their health visitor compared with the statutory five visits that the rest of the country receives. The increased one-to-one visits ensure parents receive more support, as well as giving them the opportunity to discuss any issues they have in more depth, such as concerns about mental health.
Health visitors play a key role in supporting parental and infant mental health, which is needed even more currently amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The suite of support provided by our enhanced health visiting service includes: support for new parents in understanding how their baby is communicating with them through the Brazelton Newborn Behavioural Observations (NBO) relationship-building tool; and support with low mood in the postnatal period using Behavioural Activation. Where extra support is indicated, our Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health can offer the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS) which provides a strengths-based in-depth profile of individual babies and Video Interaction Guidance.
Through our community-based approach to infant mental health, the Blackpool Better Start partnership is promoting responsive, consistent early relationships between parents/caregivers and their baby which will help build their baby’s brain connections, regulate emotions and behaviour, and develop secure attachments. These relationships are the foundation of mental health across the life course.
To learn more about our community-based approach to improving infant mental health during Infant Mental Health Awareness Week – and hear from our Community Connectors, Specialist Health Visitor, Children Services Practitioner, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and local parents talk about Babies’ mental health – you can watch our specially produced Better Start TV programme.
‘Babies’ Mental Health: What is it and how can we support it?’ was live-streamed on Facebook on Monday 7 June at 11am, and you can catch up on our page facebook.com/BetterStartBlackpool/ or watch here https://vimeo.com/559923374
Melanie Farman Development Manager, Centre for Early Child Development and Tracy Greenwood Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust.