Telethon Kids Institute researcher awarded prestigious Healthway Fellowship
Telethon Kids Institute’s Head of Early Neurodevelopment and Mental Health Dr Amy Finlay-Jones has been awarded the prestigious Healthway Fellowship for 2021 for a project aimed at improving mental health interventions in children under the age of five years.
The project will focus on identifying early signs in babies, toddlers and young children which could indicate that they are more likely to develop a mental illness later in life.
“At a conservative estimate, we would expect around 80,000 children to be experiencing mental health difficulties in Western Australia alone, every year,” Dr Finlay-Jones said.
“We also know that these difficulties are preventable. Unfortunately, our current system is not well equipped to identify these early signs of vulnerability or to provide the support children need.”
One of the key areas the project will examine is ‘chronic early irritability’ in babies and toddlers. Dr Finlay-Jones said certain behaviours were often early warning signs, even in very young babies.
“These are children who have extreme and prolonged tantrums, and really struggle to settle down and self-regulate,” she said.
“We know that this can be a sign that they might be more vulnerable to developing mental health problems later in life, as well as being something that’s incredibly stressful for families to have to deal with.”
It is these children that Dr Finlay-Jones says are those who are most in need of targeted support “because we do know that with support those difficulties can be managed and we can get those children on the right mental health and developmental track.”
Dr Finlay Jones will partner with community organisations Ngala and the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre to develop a roadmap for promoting equity in early child development, so that all families have equal access to support from as early as possible.
The Healthway Fellowship is worth more than $398,565 over three years and will be administered by The University of Western Australia.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the fellowship will help to build the health promotion research workforce in WA.
“Dr Finlay-Jones has the appropriate expertise, knowledge and well-established networks to undertake the project, and we look forward to the research outcomes benefitting Western Australian children and their families,” he added.
For more information on the work of the Institute, please see here.