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Foundations of Mental Health – Professor Peter Fonagy, Dr Karen Bateson & Jabeer Butt

18th April 2021
Episode 5

In collaboration with:

  • Public Health England

In this episode, the group discuss the importance of early experiences, such as good contact with a responsive adult who is sensitive to needs in order to build trust and secure the best foundations for mental health throughout life. Attachment, predictability and sensitivity are fundamental building blocks determining how we interact in the world.

Parent influence early on shapes who we are as human beings, even down to nappy changing moments. Peter describes it as ‘the foundations of life’ with 3 principles:

  1. Self-esteem – how to develop good self-esteem
  2. Self-discipline – controlling behaviour with parents and when they are out in the world
  3. Social competence – managing relationships in a supportive manner

If these are not developed, it can impact relationships, empathy and problem solving throughout life. The group discuss the process of ‘mentalising’, the impacts of micro-traumas and how people see themselves.

Turning to what action can be taken, rather than trying to prevent abuse and maltreatment, the group discuss promoting positive childhood experiences through good attachments with positive adults. They talk about joined-up thinking so that families can access a continuum of support, universal, targeted, specialist services as well as a workforce development strategy so that all professionals receive training in infant mental health. Taking a whole-school approach is another example - changing a community by helping everyone in the school environment see each other as human beings and develop supportive relationships.

Listen to this RWPMH episode