Infant Mental Health

Infant Mental Health is the recognition that a baby’s early years, from conception to 3 years, are deeply significant as his brain is developing every minute of every day. His experience of life during his first few years directly relate to how his mental and emotional health will develop into adolescence and adulthood. The evidence is compelling that investment in the early years is crucial to build and sustain healthy parents and healthy children.

In the Western Trust there are a number of initiatives which support the early years, these include:
• IMH strategy
• CEWS strategy
• Best start booklet
• Roots of Empathy
• Relax kids


The Best start in Life for your child

The best start in life for your child booklet has been produced by the Health Improvement Department to support parents and carers of babies and children under 3 years.
Evidence shows that the easiest and most important way to nurture and develop positive mental and emotional wellbeing in babies and young children is by developing a strong positive relationship between the baby and parent or main carer. 
This booklet explores each of the five Infant Mental Health messages and highlights the simple things parents and carers can do to ensure the best start in life for their child.

1. No smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy

2. Breastfeed your baby 

3. Read a story to your child every day

4. Give your child lots of love, affection and praise

5. Have fun and play with your child 

Relax Kids

‘Relax Kids’ is a children’s relaxation programme aimed at helping children to feel confident and calm. It uses a 7 step method to teach children relaxation to help promote their mental health and emotional well-being in a school setting through movement, games, stretching and breathing exercises, peer light touch, positive affirmations and creative visualisation. 

For more information on relax kids:


Roots of Empathy

The Roots of Empathy programme is a classroom based programme which centres around a baby visiting the classroom with his parent throughout a school year, nine times in total. A Roots of Empathy instructor facilitates and encourages the pupils to observe the relationship between baby and parent. This helps the pupils to understand and name their feelings, raising social and emotional competence to increase their understanding of empathy whilst at the same time reducing levels of aggression.
In total 330 children are participating in the programme which has been running with fifteen local primary schools in the Omagh and Fermanagh areas since September 2011. 
The programme is coordinated and led by the Western Trust Health Improvement Department in partnership with the Western Education and Library Board (WELB). The project is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA).

For more information on the Roots of Empathy programme

Contact details:
Debbie Hunter
Health Improvement Officer for Infant Mental Health
Western Trust
Health Improvement Department
Maple Villa B
Gransha Park
Clooney Road
Derry/ Londonderry
BT47 6WJ
Northern Ireland

Tel:           028 7186 5127