The costs of mental illness in Australia will continue to grow from the current $190 billion per annum because Australia is not investing in the social and emotional wellbeing of infants and young children (0-5 years), according to experts at a Canberra Conference.
In a joint communiqué launched at the Infant and Early Childhood Social and Emotional Wellbeing conference in Canberra, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) called on the Federal Government to rethink the way money is invested in infant mental health.
“Half of all mental health issues are preventable with early intervention – we’re not suggesting money be taken away from important initiatives addressing adolescent and adult mental health, we’re saying the lack of funds allocated to infant and early childhood mental health needs to be urgently addressed,” CEO of ARACY Dr Lance Emerson said.
According to Anna Huber, National President of AAIMHI, the science says the foundations of mental health are established early in life.
She argued that by switching the focus from only treating established mental illness in adolescence and adulthood, to adopting a preventative, evidence-based approach in the early years, is both critical and cost-effective.
“Are we really surprised about the prevalence of increasing mental health problems and the growing expenditure attached to picking up the pieces? That is why we are urging the Coalition Government to take action on the infant mental health agenda, as part of its broader mental health agenda, as promised, in its first 100 days in office,” Huber said.
The joint communiqué will frame discussions at this week’s conference, which has attracted international keynote speakers and close to 500 delegates.
The program will feature a facilitated panel discussion on ‘what is the place of young children in the national mental health agenda?’.
“The take-home message is we’re not starting early enough. But we can turn the curve with early and effective intervention, and a consistent approach,” Huber said.
As first appeared on Pro-Bono Australia News, 31 October 2013