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Child mental health conference shares knowledge

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Over 250 delegates from New Zealand, Australia, USA and the UK attended the "Infant Mental Health: Tools for Practice" conference at Te Papa over the past three days (27th - 29th February). Presentations were provided by clinicians and researchers from New Zealand, Australia, USA and the UK.

The conference focused on an inter-disciplinary sharing of knowledge and expertise within the infant mental health field.

Infant mental health encompasses the cognitive, social and emotional well-being of infants, very young children and their families/whanau.

"The well-being of infants sits within the quality of relationships they have with their parents and caregivers, which in turn sits within the quality of relationship parents and caregivers have with each other and their community" says Maree Foley, president of IMHAANZ.

Coming to understand an infant is a challenge under the best of circumstances. The early beginnings can go smoothly, but it can be a stressful time for babies and their families. Babies get sick, families face unexpected challenges. Often what's missing is somewhere to go and talk about the struggle; how hard it is and how hard it can be to keep the baby in mind when parents might also be feeling lonely, not very competent and afraid they are doing it all wrong. Infant Mental Health services "support the mother or father and infant to get to know each other better and fall in love with each other. In the beginning sometimes that's hard", says keynote speaker Dr Deborah Weatherston. This support promotes the social and emotional well being of the baby by creating a listening space for the baby and the mum and dad to develop a better understanding of each other. This better understanding becomes a protective factor in the parent-child relationship reducing the likelihood that stress and isolation, for example, will result in child abuse and neglect.

This is of particular relevance when considering that yesterday coincided with closure of submissions for the "Green Paper for Vulnerable Children", and the recent release of "Healthy Beginnings"

by the Ministry of Health.


Maree Foley is available for comments.


Maree Foley

Cell: 021 448097


IMHAANZ, a New Zealand registered charitable trust, was established in 2006. IMHAANZ is an affiliate association of the World Association of Infant Mental Health. Members include psychotherapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, early childhood educators, midwives and nurses.

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