New dedicated strategy launched by the Northern Trust

Infant mental health is everyone’s business - New dedicated strategy launched by the Northern Trust

Early childhood experiences and parenting relationships, particularly those in the first three years, have a major impact on healthy development and positive mental health throughout all our lives. Similarly, negative experiences and poor relationships can cause damage which lasts a lifetime.

This clearly highlights the importance of a consistent approach to prevention and early intervention in infant mental health – it is something in which we all have a part to play.

The Northern Trust has developed its first Infant Mental Health Strategy which outlines the direction for services over the next three years (2017-2020), including an action plan for delivery and working together across services, with external organisations and with families to improve the mental health of children throughout the Trust area.

The Strategy is being launched today (Wednesday 25 October 2017) at an event attended by staff and families, which will showcase some of the work involved. The keynote speaker is George Hosking OBE from the WAVE Trust who is an expert in the importance of the infant period on wellbeing.

Marie Roulston, Divisional Director of Women, Children and Families Division said,

“The Northern Trust is strongly committed to improving the social and emotional development of young children and families, so that they have a better start in life.

“To deliver such an ambitious Strategy we recognise that a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach is needed, involving a wide range of services and with partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors. We are also fully committed to the involvement of parents and children at all stages from planning through to evaluation.

“I would like to acknowledge our staff for all the work they have done in developing this Strategy and in helping to improve the wellbeing of children both now and in the future.”

The Strategy which is the Trust’s response to the Infant Mental Health Framework for Northern Ireland, is aligned to priorities set out in public health policy and is supported by research.

Children and young people under the age of 18 years make up 23.3% of the population of the Northern Trust and there are around 6,000 new births every year. A third of births are to first-time parents. An aim of the Strategy is to help staff address infant mental health issues in practice and work together on opportunities to engage mothers and fathers on practical aspects of parenting that support emotional and social development. This includes looking at care during pregnancy, after birth, infant feeding, childhood development, psychological and family support, community support and inpatient care.

There are four keys areas of work:

• Raising awareness of the importance of infant mental health with or staff, families and the community;
• Further developing our workforce;
• Greater integration of services across disciplines, organisations and sectors;
• Promoting good practice and service development.

A range of initiatives have been developed which support the Strategy:

STAR Babies is an enhanced home visiting service for all first-time parents. The focus is on connecting and growing the relationship between parents and their new babies during the first twelve months of life, with the aim of improving infant mental health outcomes in the longer term. 97% of parents felt that they had learned more about bonding and ways to make their baby feel more secure through this programme.

Other initiatives include group-based antenatal care and follow on ‘Baby and Me’ programmes for mums and dads. These provide support to parents in a range of areas including breastfeeding, soothing your baby, meeting your baby's needs and additional support for mothers’ mental health.

Mum Kara-Leigh, a local primary school teacher, and baby Harry previously attended STAR Babies and are now taking part in Baby and Me. Kara-Leigh said,

“The Baby and Me programme is fantastic. Harry loves playing with the other toddlers and joining in with the activities.

“The support I have had from my health visitors has been super. Someone visits me monthly giving me the opportunity to talk about weaning, how to play with Harry to develop his skills and practice baby massage which really helps to settle him. I particularly enjoyed the visit by the health assistant who talked about how to make my house safe for Harry. I learnt so much!”

See Northern Trust Infant Mental Health Strategy document.

Page last updated:25 October 2017