The importance of mental healthcare in the early years
I believe that the foundations of good mental health are put in place before a child is even born. In fact, I believe that the earliest mental health care intervention possible is ensuring that all mothers, fathers, guardians, and families are supported in their own mental health – before the birth of the child, and shortly after birth.
For babies and toddlers, having a loving, warm relationship with their parents or carers lays the groundwork for good mental health throughout their lives. Supporting infant mental health means supporting and nurturing those relationships within a family.
This is why, in my most recent mental health report, I have called for every family to receive support throughout pregnancy and the early years through family hubs. This support doesn’t only have to come through family hubs. It can also be through improved, more regular support from health visiting services that directly check-in with parental and infant mental health.
Sadly, too often, this sort of early support from health visitors and children’s services is not always available for parents and their young children. There is often a lack of clarity over which organisations are responsible for commissioning early support for families.
I will be exploring in more detail in my upcoming Family Review how exactly these early years services can best support all families – by making sure they are accessible, tied in to their communities, and working closely together.
Additionally, NHS mental health services are not well set up to support infants under the age of 5. This means that emerging mental health problems or SEND are not always identified early enough.
Young people have told us that they wish their symptoms of poor mental health had been picked up earlier by professionals, showing how vital mental health care in the early years can be for young people:
“I was described as ‘an old soul’ and ‘beyond my years’ – like no 4-year-old has panic attacks, it’s not just a quirk. No one said, ‘what’s going on’, it was just a case of you will grow up and grow out of it. Everything was sort of like brushed off” – Girl, 19, in focus group for ‘A Head Start’ report.
It is only by taking mental health in the early years and in the family seriously that we will achieve change for children.
Latest News from
How we can support children and their mental health to attend school regularly05/08/2022 09:20:00
In The Big Ask, children told us about how much they care about feeling happy and well.
Celebrating National Playday 202203/08/2022 09:25:00
Today is National Playday, the day that we celebrate the importance of play to children in the United Kingdom.
A statement on the murder of Leiland-James Corkill01/08/2022 13:38:00
Like many, I was shocked and saddened by the horrendous murder of Leiland-James Corkill, by those who should have loved and cared for him.
No more known unknowns01/08/2022 09:20:00
My Attendance Audit so far has included surveying all local authorities, carrying out a deep-dive in 10 local authorities to get to the root of school absence and a detailed investigation of the daily attendance patterns in autumn 2021.
Celebrating the Commonwealth Games29/07/2022 13:38:00
Celebrating the Commonwealth Games (28 July 2022).
Reforming children’s homes: a policy plan of action29/07/2022 09:20:00
Reforming children’s homes: a policy plan of action (28 July 2022).
What we learned from parents under 5 in the second Family Review Call to Action27/07/2022 16:10:00
Family life, and what can be done to support families, is a key priority for the Children’s Commissioner, who was delighted to be commissioned by the Government to undertake an Independent Review of contemporary family life.
Creating a child safeguarding system which shares data to protect and empower children and young people27/07/2022 13:20:00
Over the last few months, my office has been working hard on developing new ways to improve data sharing in child safeguarding systems. Following a cross-government workshop in May, which we previously reported on, the team has undertaken an intense round of one-to-one interviews with senior stakeholders and begun detailing recommendations for improvements.