Mental Health Starts in the Womb Conference a Roaring Success

Mental Health Starts in the Womb Conference a Roaring Success

70/30 Ambassador for Reading, Linda Dee established the ‘Mental Health Starts in the Womb’ conference to enable large-scale understanding of baby brain development, how that affects mental health and to showcase primary prevention. At the event WAVE Trust Founder & CEO, George Hosking presented the charity’s ACE-prevention Pioneer Community project and the 70/30 Grass Roots national campaign. His presentation was very impactful on the audience who were described by Linda as ‘shaken in a good way and inspired’.

Throughout the day a dozen people signed up to learn more about the Grass Roots campaign and how to get involved with the 70/30 network and plenty more people visited the WAVE table, took leaflets and asked questions of WAVE Trust’s Anthoulla Koutsoudi. Both George and Anthoulla were very pleased to also meet Richmond 70/30 Ambassadors, Daphne Cotton and Amy Dobson at the conference, asking questions of speakers and participating in discussions.

The Window of Tolerance

The Window of Tolerance

 Dan Seigul first named the Window of Tolerance, as the level of arousal in which a person can function to the best of their ability. When an individual is in this zone they are able to process their surroundings and regulate themselves in a positive way. When we are out of our window of tolerance the pre-frontal cortex region of our brain shuts down. Consequently we struggle with our surroundings, we become less rational and we may make impulse decisions and actions. This can lead to an individual to either fight (hyper-arousal), flight (hyper-arousal) or freeze (hypo – arousal).

Now this window is not the same size for everyone and for those young people who have gone through a trauma it is often particularly small. If you have led a relatively settled life your Window of Tolerance is likely to be quite big and flexible. Consequently you can handle more stress  before being pushed out of your comfort zone. However, if we consider a child who has multiple ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences (see infographic below)) it is likely that their experience of the world has caused them to be wary and suspicious. If an individual feels safe and supported they are likely to manage their stress effectively. However, if they usually feel unsafe or abandoned their window of tolerance is likely to be smaller and inflexible. For these young people even a small amount of stress can cause an extreme reaction.

So how might this look in a child? For those of us who work with children we have all experienced a situation where a child has been asked to do a simple task and they react in one of the three ways described above (fight, flight or freeze). A good example is public speaking. If a child has a small window of tolerance being asked to stand up in front of their class and speak could push them out of their window of tolerance causing them to freeze. Alternatively they might choose to fight and argue with the teacher about being asked to speak publicly. 

This can have huge consequences for a young persons mental health. A child who is unable to cope with additional stress is likely to struggle to build meaningful relationships with peers and adults. A playground tiff suddenly becomes a serious incident which could be met with violence. This child would be aware that they are different and struggle to regulate their emotions this could cause low self esteem which would go on to affect every area of their lives. Individuals may even go on to develop depression or anxiety.

The good new is this is not permanent and with the right support young people can be taught techniques to regulate themselves more effectively. Mindfulness techniques can help an individual learn how to anchor themselves in the here and now and teach their body how to be calm. Additionally, protective behavior techniques such as identifying indicators of danger and stress can enable a young person to better label their emotions and assess their situation. Therapy can also be a platform for an individual to explore the trauma they might have been through in a safe and accepting environment. Such support can be accessed from early help services and the adults in the young peoples life.

If someone is used to feeling unsafe or unsupported it is no wonder that their behaviour may be extreme or aggressive. As adults we must guide and reassure these young people so that they might better manage their emotions and therefore have more positive future outcomes.

COMING UP: Reading conference on Families’ Emotional Health & Well Being

COMING UP: Reading conference on Families’ Emotional Health & Well Being

Mental Health Starts in the Womb Conference
Laying the Foundations for Family Emotional Health and Well being
Conference in Reading, Berkshire,
Thursday 9th November 2017
The Pavilion, 143-145 Oxford Rd, Reading, RG1 7UY

Come to this insightful conference day followed by workshops focusing on how we can all work together to improve emotional well being for every family from the beginnings of pregnancy.

Why Mental Health Starts in The Womb conference?
We aim to raise the awareness of professionals working with parents and parents themselves of the importance of foetal development in the 9 months of pregnancy and infant development in the first few years of life. We want to promote family friendly policies and practice around pregnancy, birth and first two years of life for the well being of all.

What is the plan of the conference?
The conference will have two parts.

In the morning we will hear international and UK experts speaking on the themes of the conference: emotional wellbeing for parents, carers, babies and infants in pregnancy and first two years of life. We will have evidence from top academics in their field and we will look at what is already happening nationally and what tools and services are available.

In the afternoon we will have workshops for parents and people working with families in the field of pregnancy, birth preparation and early parenting, as well as for third sector, statutory services and local authority representatives.

What is the purpose of the workshops in the afternoon?
We will be exploring how we can all work together to improve emotional wellbeing for every family from the beginnings of pregnancy. The aim of the workshops is to look at how to map the services and gaps and work collaboratively in your local area.

Who is this conference for?
The conference is open to everyone interested in parenting as well as foetal and infant development. We welcome GPs, healthcare professionals, parents and expectant parents, third sector, statutory services and local authority representatives, and everyone working with families and in the field of pregnancy, birth preparation and early parenting.