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‘Mental health starts in the womb’

7 July, 2016

‘Mental health starts in the womb’

Tackling mental illness in children should begin before they are born, at a time when expectant mothers can suffer mental health problems, say councils.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says this can have a potentially devastating impact on newborn babies, which could set back their personal and emotional development.

A new report, Best start in life, officially unveiled today (7 July) says early interactions and experiences directly affect how a child’s brain develops.

Janet Fyle, RCM professional policy advisor, said: ‘This supports the RCM's view that more investment is needed in resources and expert staff to ensure that women with pregnancy or birth related mental health problems get appropriate care and support.

‘Failing to do this, as so often happens, results not only in greater cost to society, but a great deal of suffering to the families that could have been prevented through early action.’

One in five mothers experiences depression, anxiety or post-birth psychosis during pregnancy or in their first year.

Councils say it is vital that intervention is made at this critical stage to reduce the chances of mental illness developing in children.

The LGA report cites research that shows if a baby’s development falls behind during the first years of life, they are more at risk of falling behind later on in life, and being more likely to develop mental illness.

By the age of five, nearly one in four children do not reach the expected level in language and communication skills and a fifth fall short of the expected level in personal, social and emotional development, according to figures from the Early Year Foundation Stage Profiles.

One in 10 school children (aged five to 16) has a diagnosable mental health problem, such as conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder or depression.

Those aged 11 to 25 with mental illness are also twice as likely to leave or have left school without qualifications.

For more information and to read the report, click here.

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