The University of Northampton (UON) has launched a Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Practice in Infant Mental Health and Wellbeing aimed at mental health nurses and practitioners who work with babies, children, young people, and families – including health visitors, social workers, early years professionals, nurses, midwives, and teachers – and who have an interest in infant mental health.
The bespoke 7-month course is endorsed and accredited by the Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH) and is one of only two courses in the UK on infant mental health. It has been developed by Eunice Lumsden[i], Professor of Child Advocacy and Head of Childhood Youth and Families at UON at a key time when there is growing awareness of the importance of infant mental health. The modules are also offered as Continuing Professional Development modules.
It follows the Government’s early years healthy development review report[ii], which came out last year that focuses on the 1,001 critical days through pregnancy to the age of two, which are when the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health are laid down. The report includes research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child which highlights:
- The 1,001 critical days are when the foundations of the brain’s architecture are built
- Experience (nurture) shapes how genes (nature) are expressed
- The foundations of cognitive, emotional and social capabilities are formed in this period
- Stress and adverse experiences in the 1,001 critical days can have lifelong impacts
Other research last year by the Parent-Infant Foundation with NHS children and young people’s mental health professionals shows significant gaps in knowledge, experience and confidence across the workforce. It found that during their pre-qualification training, 26% of respondents had not been trained to work with 0–2-year-olds and 48% had not had experience of working with this age group during their training[iii].
Robin Sturman-Coombs, Senior Lecturer in Social Welfare at UON said: “Evidence suggests that now more than ever we need to support infants, children and families at an earlier stage to improve the long-term outcomes for all family members. We know infancy is a critical period in a child’s life, during which early experiences can and do shape connections and relationships into adolescence and beyond.
“We have specifically designed a course to better equip professionals in this area to help them improve outcomes for the infants, children, young people and families they work with. Our programme is of direct relevance to those employed in family hubs, mother and baby psychiatric units and early help centres. It will enable them to develop expertise in the field of infant mental health and wellbeing and offers opportunities to engage in critical debate, learning and discussions on the contemporary issues relating to the field.”
The course covers a breadth of skills, knowledge and experiences, including the structure of an infant’s brain, the impact of adversity on early days, and how harm, abuse and poverty can impact infant mental health. Students will learn how families can help ensure good mental health for babies and infants, and how these relationships intersect across racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and other wide-ranging factors.
As well as an impressive ‘toolkit’, postgraduates will also, if they wish, be able to submit a portfolio of evidence for assessment by AIMH at the end of the course. Successful completion and submission of this portfolio allows them to join the Infant Mental Health Register.
The course starts in January 2023 and finishes in September 2023. The course fees are £2,550. For more information, click here. The university is running a number of open days on 19 November, 7 and 10 December. Click here for information and to register to attend.
The University of Northampton is part of the Best of Both Worlds recruitment campaign which is shining a light on healthcare careers across the county.