A mentally healthy childhood is crucial in promoting positive social, emotional and behavioural development in children. The national strategy ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ places the child and family at the centre of all care and services. It defines wellbeing in terms of eight indicators: nurtured, active, respected, responsible, included, safe, healthy and achieving. These are the basic ingredients necessary for all children to reach their full potential.
Why mental health in the early years is important
- There are specific challenges to wellbeing in early years: Inequalities in society have a bearing on maternal health and the development of the child and his or her happiness and productivity.
- Women with complex social problems e.g. substance misuse, homelessness and mental health problems are considered to be high-risk groups. Mothers under 20 years are also a high-risk group. High-risk women require the support of all our services before, during and after pregnancy.
- Children whose mothers are emotionally well have better social, behavioural and emotional development
- Integrated planning should include preconception counselling, contraception advice and provision for high-risk, vulnerable groups. This includes strengthening the role of health visitors and midwives working together to detect and support those with mental health problems in the early years. Staff must be aware of the implications of poverty on health and what support can be provided. We will continue to support women at risk of poverty, gender based violence or who could benefit from employability advice by recommending sensitive enquiry in services.
- The evidence base should be used to target services to need. We can do this by continuing Triple P for all parents as well as identifying and supporting more vulnerable families to access more intensive parenting interventions. The introduction of a new universal contact at around 30 months of age will help us to engage families identified as requiring more support.
- We will continue to prioritise the implementation of the Triple P Positive Parenting Programme. We will work with existing parents groups and organisations to support engagement with Triple P groups.
- We need to raise awareness amongst all staff in contact with pregnant women of the harms caused by smoking and alcohol in pregnancy and the effectiveness of cessation support to encourage women to access smoking cessation services as early in pregnancy as possible.
- We should ensure that primary mental health services prioritise pregnant women and women with very young children in need. We must aim for fast track access to support with psychological therapies before or soon after their child is born to reduce any effect on attachment or bonding.
- In March 2011, the Scottish Government published their Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland, which sets out how the 2020 targets laid down by the Child Poverty Act 2010 will be met. We will take action to reduce child poverty by developing local partnership strategies which will help families, reduce their outgoings, increase their incomes and reduce the negative effects of poverty.
Our vision for a mentally healthy Glasgow and Clyde
Robert Naylor, Director of Education, Renfrewshire Council
"My vision for a mentally flourishing Greater Glasgow and Clyde is one in which both parents and children are nurtured and supported. We have a national policy to Get it Right for Every Child but this presupposes that we succeed in getting it right for every parent. Parents tend to parent in ways that echo their own experiences as children even if these were relatively poor. For this reason, the mental health of parents themselves must be considered central both to parenting and to their own capacity to change."
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Georgina Brown, Glasgow GP with lead role for Deprivation
"I look forward to a time in which health care professionals would have the time to really focus on the whole patient instead of rushing a consultation on a major issue or a multi-morbid presentation in just 10 minutes. I look forward to a time in which the care of children and the recognition of neglect and child protection are seen as a universal responsibility. Improved and regular communication is needed between all disciplines with responsibility for the care and contact for children and the creation of a safety network that stops 'children falling into the river' rather than the current network that simply pulls them out once they have already suffered. Without a Universal approach we will never identify all the children who struggle and suffer."