Australian Government lends support to infant/child mental health framework

Australian Government lends support to infant/child mental health framework

by Freya Lucas

October 08, 2019

A workforce development strategy designed to build the capabilities of professionals, including those working in early childhood education and care (ECEC), to act early in a child’s life and change their “mental health trajectory” has received the backing of Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt. 


The support of the framework coincides with its release as part of broader initiatives taking place for Mental Health Week, which runs from Sunday 6 October to Saturday 12 October. 


Developed by Emerging Minds as part of its Federally funded National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, the Workforce Development Framework was built after extensive needs assessments identifying knowledge gaps amongst GPs, and other health, social and community practitioners on how to support the mental health of infants, children and families.


The Framework further serves to respond to the “widespread acknowledgment of the need for early identification of mental health risk factors for infants and children”.


Mr Hunt said both the Framework, and the broader work undertaken by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health are an important part of the Federal Government’s reforms to improve the mental health system.


Noting the visibility given to the issue by both the Framework and the Centre, Mr Hunt said it was “heartening” to see the practical resources and tools “coming to life”. 


“The aim is that the resources will help professionals feel supported and confident to work with infants, children and their families to identify, assess and support children at risk of or experiencing mental health difficulties,” he added.


Chair of Emerging Minds, Phil Robinson PSM, said the focus on the mental health of infants and young children is “particularly relevant” given research that shows early action can improve lifetime mental health outcomes.


Recognising the “many examples of proactive and effective practices in Australia and internationally” to support the mental health of young people, Mr Robinson said there was a need to do “even more” for infants and children under 12. 


Before turning seven years of age, over one in seven children will experience a mental health condition, and of those children only one in six will receive help, Mr Robinson said. With half of all lifetime mental illnesses emerging in childhood, this is a statistic the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health seeks to change. 


Mr Robinson acknowledged the systemic, organisational and individual challenges faced by families and practitioners, and said his group would continue to work in partnership with the Federal Government to “overcome these issues”. 


“This Framework underpins our commitment to support early action, early in life, to improve the mental prosperity of Australia,” he added. 


The Workforce Development Framework can be downloaded here.