17/06/2024

New Report Highlights Range Of Infant Support Services In NI

The Public Health Agency (PHA) have partnered with the National Children's Bureau for the publication of a new report on the wide range of programmes and services working to support infants and their families in Northern Ireland.

The report – 'Insights in infant mental health in Northern Ireland' – highlights the types of services available, how they are supporting families and their priorities for future service delivery. The report has been written by the National Children's Bureau on behalf of the PHA.

Bryan Leonard, Regional Lead for Early Years at the PHA, said: "Infant mental health focuses on social and emotional development during the first three years of life for an infant and their family. A child's physical, social, emotional and cognitive development during those early years strongly influence their future wellbeing, relationships, educational attainment and the capacity to engage in the world of work.

"Stress and adversity experienced during early years can have a negative impact on babies' physical and mental health as they grow but this doesn't have to be the case.

"If we intervene early enough, we can give children a vital social and emotional foundation which will help to keep them happy, healthy and achieving throughout their lives and, above all, equip them to raise children of their own, who will also enjoy higher levels of wellbeing."
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This report also provides early years practitioners, community and voluntary organisations and anyone interested in infant mental health with a summary of the research on how important of this period is to better long-term child and parent outcomes. Information is presented on relevant policy and regional data, evidence on what works in service development and delivery to best support infant mental health and case studies showcasing the range of services available across Northern Ireland, and the ways in which they support infant mental health.

Claire Dorris, Senior Research Manager at NCB, said: "The theme for infant mental health week 2024 is 'speak up for babies'. The wide array of services highlighted in our detailed report demonstrate just how many people and organisations have an important role to play in raising awareness of the specific needs of babies and infants, and in ensuring that those needs are met. The case studies provide examples of strong collaboration between voluntary, community and statutory sectors, alongside multi-disciplinary working, reflecting the need for a 'whole-child' approach. Support for parents and carers, for the infant themselves, for the parent-infant relationship, and indeed for practitioners working with families, are all reflected and essential. Infant mental health really is 'everyone's business'."

To view the 'Insights in infant mental health in Northern Ireland' report visit www.pha.site/InsightsReport

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