Emotional health and wellbeing
Infant mental health and bonding
In essence, infant mental health refers to the emotional wellbeing of your baby and the growing bond between you.
Science and research tells us that experiencing consistent sensitive and loving relationships when we are babies gives us the ability to control our own emotions, gives us a sense of self-esteem and helps to build positive attachments with others across our life.
Sometimes it is difficult to work out what your baby wants. Babies can be very puzzling at first and working out how to respond to their needs can be a challenge! Knowing about a baby’s individual patterns and preferences, such as the best ways of soothing, can help you as a parent enjoy the first weeks and months more.
All Health Visitors and Community Nursery Nurses in the Torbay area have received training about infant mental health, and your named Health Visitor will be happy to have a supportive conversation with you regarding how to build a close and loving relationship with your baby. Please see the below links for more information.
Family life can be difficult and challenging. At times your child can find it hard coping with life’s everyday stresses and experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety and fear. During these times their feelings can start to get them down and they can become upset, argumentative, or at odds with themselves and other people.
Dealing with your child’s emotional health and wellbeing can be a difficult task to manage and at times you might need help.
If you are worried about your child’s emotional health and wellbeing use the parents and carers section to find advice and helpful information about finding ways to cope with your child’s feelings and behaviour/mental health problems.
Devon Partnership Trust’s Depression and Anxiety Service is a free, confidential, NHS talking therapy service for adults, offering effective treatments and therapies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Torbay Domestic Abuse Service (TDAS) provides support for men, women and children in Torbay who need advice and protection from domestic abuse.
Pregnancy can be a very exciting and happy time, but it can also be overwhelming. Lots of things can change when you have a baby such as careers put on hold, financial strains and relationship problems. If you have had in the past, or now have, severe mental health problems, you are more likely to become ill during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth than at other times in your life. Around 10% of pregnant women experience feelings such as anxiety, low mood, unhappiness, and anger which are hard to shift. If these emotions last longer than two weeks and interfere with your ability to enjoy life and complete normal day to day activities, you may be experiencing antenatal or postnatal depression. Depression during and after pregnancy can vary from mild to severe and can affect women in different ways. Please speak to your midwives, health visitor or GP if you are concerned.
When someone you are close to dies, which could be a family member, friend or even a pet, dealing with how you feel can be very hard, but it’s normal to feel sad, angry, confused and hurt.
CAMHS have some useful links for families dealing with bereavement/loss.
Sands works to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, improve the care bereaved parents receive and create a world where fewer babies die.
Your 0-19 team can provide support and advice if you are worried about your child/young person’s emotional wellbeing. We want our children to be happy, confident and feel able to deal with life’s challenges. Although feeling stressed or sad is a normal reaction to events, it is recognised that more and more children and young people are struggling to cope with their thoughts and feelings. Emotional distress may show itself as self-harm, behavioural issues and eating disorders.
Your 0-19 team can offer extra support to both young people and their carer’s and have a good knowledge of local services and other resources which can support families. Parents or young people can talk in confidence with their 0-19 team who can also help to make referrals into other specialist services to give more support where needed.
If you need urgent advice then please contact your doctor or in an emergency dial 999.
For further advice and resources about mental health and young people, please see the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) pages.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about being a Dad or if you’re going to be good enough. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. You can talk to your midwife or health visitor, or G/P about this. We may be enough, or we may tell you about other services for you. You are so important in your child’s life; we want you to be the best Dad you possibly can be.
Men are more likely to recognize and describe the physical symptoms of depression (such as feeling tired, or losing or gaining weight) than women. Men may acknowledge feeling irritable or angry, rather than saying they feel low. Everyone feels ‘down’ occasionally but if you have been sad, moody, angry or unable to sleep or concentrate for more than a couple of weeks, it could be depression. Dad’s get post natal depression too, so especially around the time of having a new baby, where there are a lot of life changes, it is important to talk to someone about how you are feeling.
Depression is a serious and common condition which won’t get better by itself. If you had a broken arm or a deep cut on your foot, you wouldn’t expect that to heal without medical help. It’s the same with mental illness such as depression, you need to get help and the first point must be your doctor, midwife or health visitor.
The Wellbeing Plan is a two-page plan, endorsed by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), that helps you start thinking about how you feel and what support you might need in your pregnancy and after the birth.
The Wellbeing Plan is a two-page plan, endorsed by NICE, that helps you start thinking about how you feel and what support you might need in your pregnancy and after the birth.
Mental health and learning disability services are provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust. For more information, please see our Accessing mental health services page.
Teenagers: for you
Young people can experience a range of mental health problems. Childhood and teenage years are a time when you are usually changing rapidly and developing all the time.
You also often have to cope with many different situations and unfamiliar challenges like exams, relationships and the other pressures of growing up.
While often it’s possible to talk to parents or carers about feelings, you may find it hard to do so. You might express how you feel through being moody, getting in trouble at school or at home or by becoming angry easily. Some people also get odd aches and pains that can happen when you’re not able to say what you’re feeling.
If you’re able to carry on your usual life and don’t experience lasting unpleasant feelings, the best help is for parents, relatives or friends to be available to listen, to talk things through and to support you where they can.
More rarely, you may experience difficulties that are more severe or long lasting, or you may find yourself reacting to setbacks in a more extreme way. You may tell parents or friends that you are distressed or unable to cope, or you may try to hint that you are and hope they speak to you. You can talk to your school nurse, teacher or youth service in your area. This can lead to the support you want.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is a specialist service in Torbay that helps our young people with mental health issues or distress.
CAMHS is used as a term for all services that work with children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional or behavioural wellbeing.
The Children’s Society (Checkpoint) – Across Torbay, Checkpoint provides a range of free and confidential information, advice and support services to children and young people aged 8–17 . based on over 25 years of local experience, their guiding philosophy, is to ensure that young people have immediate and straightforward access to independent help. They aim to promote young people’s safety, health, values, rights and responsibilities in the community so they are encouraged to reach their own decisions and consider choices in order to achieve their full potential.
Their services can be accessed by self-referral, parents/foster carers or with the support of an already involved professional such as doctors, youth workers, social workers and so on.
Children and young people may need help with a wide range of issues at different points in their lives. Parents and carers may also need help and advice to deal with behavioural or other problems their child is experiencing. Parents, carers and young people can receive direct support through CAMHS.
Parent and teenage relationships
Parents often have concerns about the behaviour of teenagers. These can range from what we might describe as ‘typical’ teenage behaviour such as staying out late, being cheeky or rude or more extreme behaviour, violence and aggression.
Being the parent of a teenager is not always easy, but then, neither is being a teenager.
Communication with teenagers often seems impossible. Remember that trying to understand the young person’s behaviour and considering different approaches will help you best react to your child becoming a teenager. Talk to your school nurse or Children’s Centre about where to get support. There are local services who are experts and we can introduce you to them.
Why can the teenage years be difficult for you and your teenager?
Being a teenager is about maturing towards adult life. Teenagers have to deal with lots of issues, such as:
- sexual feelings and a changing body
- working out their own values and morals, which may be different from yours
- learning new life skills
- forming a new adult relationship with you that will be the basis of your future together
Remember that through the teenage years you will be helping to guide your child towards adult life and will gradually hand over responsibilities and independence when your teenager shows they are ready. This can be difficult for both of you.
Perinatal distress affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. Most common mental health concerns are depression and anxiety. However individuals may experience low mood, no pleasure, feel tearful, worry excessively, have odd thoughts, become increasingly obsessional in behaviour, feel helpless, find it difficult to care for their baby and/or feel close to their baby.
There are many reasons why individuals experience this distress. Here are some which you may relate to; hormonal changes, adapting to parenthood, post traumatic birth experience, lack of support , lack of sleep, ‘pressure to do things right’, social challenges, and difficult memories may re-surface.
Through evidence and experience we know that seeking help early can really support you to make a difference to how you feel about your baby, yourself, your relationship and your enjoyment of being a parent.
You are not alone and the following ideas may help: resting when you can, eating /drinking healthily, getting support from family/friends, talking to people, access to counselling, attending a local support group, exercise, medication, self help strategies, reading relevant information and time.
We would also recommend that you talk with your Midwife, Health Visiting Team and/or GP; they can offer additional support and signpost you to helpful services. You will not feel this way for ever so get the best help for you and your family now. Below are some useful informative websites
- Best Beginnings – Baby Buddy app
- Bluebell Charity – supporting families through depression and anxiety related to pregnancy and birth
- Mind.org – Perinatal Mental Health
- NHS Choices – Postnatal Depression
- Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust – Self help guide on Postnatal depression
- Reaching Out – information on father’s mental health
- Royal College of General Practitioners – perinatal mental health toolkit
- Royal College of Psychiatrists
Advice about encouraging the positive behaviours from your child can be found in the leaflet ‘Happy Parents, Happy Children.’
Self-harming is when someone injures or harms themselves on purpose. If you would like to know more about self-harm, please see our Torbay CAMHS pages.
The sudden unexpected and unexplained death of a baby is often recorded as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We do not know what causes SIDS but for many babies it is likely that a combination of factors affect them at a vulnerable stage of their development. SIDS is rare and you can significantly reduce the chance of SIDS occurring by following safer sleep advice. For example:
- Sleep your baby on their back with their feet to the bottom of the cot for all sleeps.
- Share a room with your baby for the first six months.
- Keep your baby smoke-free during pregnancy and after birth.
- Keep your baby’s cot clear of items such as bumpers, toys and loose bedding.
- Don’t let your baby overheat, try to keep the room temperature between 16-20°C.
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby.
- Do not co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner has been drinking, is a smoker, has been taking drugs or is extremely tired.
The above is especially important for babies who were born premature or of low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.
The NHS website gives further information and advice regarding SIDS.
Being a young carer affects young people in different ways. There are Young Carers Services within Torbay where you can speak to someone who understands what it is like to be a young carer, meet other young people like yourself, join in activities where you have fun and have a break from caring.
If you think you might be a young carer or you are a young carer and need help and advice, speak to an adult you trust like your parent, carer or school teacher. They will be able to get in touch with the Young Carers Service in your local area and make a referral. Or you can contact them yourself by email or phone;
We would welcome your feedback on the 0-19 Health Visiting and School Nursing pages. If you would like to do so, please complete our feedback survey.