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New research project looks at mental health links

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A research project seeking to reduce the impact of adversity or hardship on young children aged zero to eight years old has been launched by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

The $2.5 million five-year project is being run to explore the link between early childhood trauma and adult mental health issues and is funded by Beyond Blue and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Identifying and enhancing support services for at-risk families in Wyndham in Melbourne and Marrickville in Sydney will be the focus of the project.

Launching the project, former prime minister and Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard said the work of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute was vital given half of all adult mental health issues emerge before the age of 14.

“This program will demonstrate how important it is to invest in the early years because adverse childhood experiences can have life-long implications for mental health, social, academic and employment outcomes,” Ms Gillard said.

Lead researcher MCRI’s Professor Harriet Hiscock said children who experienced stress or adversity as they grew were up to six to 10 times more likely to develop mental health problems later in life.

“These adversities include a broad range from physical and emotional abuse or neglect, parent mental health problems, harsh parenting, parent substance abuse, through to housing problems and social isolation. By lessening the stresses on young children, we improve their wellbeing now and in the future.”

Supports including health, educational and social supports such as relationship counselling or parenting advice of access to quality early childhood education and care would all be considered.
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