Caregiver’s mental health impacts early childhood development – new papers to increase knowledge

Published August 3, 2020

Parental mental health has significant impacts on parents and their children, yet it is an often neglected area of health research and with limited support services. According to the WHO, approximately 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this statistic is even higher, at 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after child birth.

Around the world levels of pre- and postpartum mental health care are insufficient, especially in crisis contexts. The mental health of parents experiencing conflict and humanitarian crises is even more critical, requiring additional services. However, existing infrastructure and national health systems lack funding and capacity to address these mental health issues.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation has partnered with United for Global Mental Health and other key stakeholders, working to:

  • Increase awareness of caregivers’ mental health as a global health issue;
  • Develop opportunities for political and financial initiatives to support solutions for this challenge;
  • Advocate for the development and use of parental health indicators;
  • Support global and national measurement processes by which impact can be monitored and assessed.

Background papers on caregivers’ mental health

Two position papers on the importance of investing at an early stage of life and the need to focus on the impact of parental and carer mental health on babies and toddlers, have been developed by United for Global Mental Health, with support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

The first paper ‘Parental and carer mental health: impact on the child’ identifies current trends in parental and carer mental health and shares the best evidence, interventions and opportunities to improve caregivers’ mental health.

The second paper ‘Parental and carer mental health in conflict and emergency settings: the impact on the child’ explores the influence of conflict and emergency settings on wider challenges facing parents and carers, children and their mental health.

Our MHPSS strategy

The Bernard van Leer Foundation is currently strengthening our internal mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) strategy, exploring ways to strengthen and expand our work on improving carer’s mental health, across our core countries. This includes: advocacy to integrate MHPSS-support for caregivers of young children; collaborating with key leaders at local and national level and integrating mental health into urban planning to build healthy environments.