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Archive for September, 2011

Risks of baby slings

As someone who used – and recommended – baby slings, I was worried to read a letter today in the Medical Journal of Australia relating to the death of a two day old infant recently while he was being carried in a baby sling. The authors point out that the cause of death was inconclusive, but given that there have been similar occurences in North America, this is clearly a cause for concern. The main risks seem to be associated with either thebaby’s face being covered, or being held in a curved position with chin to chest, and risks seem to be higher for younger, smaller or premature infants.

The ACCC has released a safety warning here if you use/are considering using a baby sling, and this contains advice on safer usage. Of course, consult a health professional if you have any other concerns.

 

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The following is a guest post by Nadia Jones. Nadia’s daughter experienced her first episode of mental illness while she was living away from home at University, leaving Nadia to have to try and manage this from afar. She has written below about her own advice to any other parents who worry about their child’s mental  health when they are away from home. She writes:

 

“For many parents, worrying about their children, especially when they move away from home for the first time, it is natural. Of course, there are many specific things that parents worry about concerning their college-bound students, but perhaps the most worrisome for those who have a family history of mental health disorders is that big changes—moving away to experience a lack of structure for the first time–could cause stresses that later manifest into full-blown disorders. This was my experience with one of my children, who was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder but had shown no signs of the disorder prior to college. Here are a few of my tips for maintaining your child’s mental health when he or she no longer lives with you.

1.     Be communicative without being overbearing.

When I first began attending college, my parents called me every day, but we never had substantive conversations. It was more of an exercise in “checking up” on me and a way to assuage their empty nest syndrome. Of course, you will want to call all the time, but it is much more effective to call your child every few days and have longer, more substantive conversations in which you can extract how they are really managing the transition. Since your child is experiencing independence for the first time, she will likely be less receptive to your communication if you call too often.

2.     Get to know your child’s friends.

Of course, this won’t happen right away, but it is important to know and have contact information of those who actually live and study with your child. It is very easy for your own child to say “I’m fine, don’t worry.” Close friends who have your child’s interests in mind will be more open to talking honestly if a serious problem begins to arise. Whenever I came to visit my child in college, I would always invite her closest friends to dinner. Being close with your child’s support group is absolutely essential if your child later struggles with mental health issues.

3.     Watch for small signs of anomalous behavior.

Most of the time, it is very easy for a burgeoning mental health problem to slip completely under the radar until it becomes an obvious problem. In my experience, especially if you already know about mental health disorders from relatives who may have them, it’s most important to look for very small changes in behavior. Even seemingly positive behaviors can be a sign. For example, when my child began calling me bubbling over with enthusiasm about a thesis project, I was excited for her. When the calls became more frequent and the enthusiasm turned into obsession, I knew that there was a problem.

4.     Emphasize the importance of consistent sleep and overall balance.

Eventually, my child’s friends and I were able to convince my child to seek professional help. And one thing that parents should know from the very beginning is that professional help is an absolute necessity if mental health problems come up. I have known far too many young men and women whose lives were ruined by mental health disorders because they or their parents were in denial and delayed seeking help. But after seeing an appropriate doctor, the most important aspect of maintaining mental health is sleep and leading a balanced life. Make sure to emphasize this when talking to your child.

It goes without saying that there is much less that you, as a parent can do when your child moves away from home, and it can be extremely stressful. Being as loving and supportive in any way you can be, while trusting your child to grow into independence, is the most effective way to ensure a stable transition from home to adulthood.”

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.

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Here in Australia, hardly a week goes by without a story about asylum seekers, also known as ‘boat people’ or ‘queue jumpers’ (NOT my terms), arriving in Australian waters by boat. A few months ago, we saw horrific images on one such boat being destroyed by heavy seas off Christmas Island. This week, the High Court has ruled that the government cannot send asylum seekers – including unaccompanied minors – to Malaysia, as had been proposed  (see ABC’s news report here).

Having worked with refugees who were survivors of torture and trauma, I have heard some of the horrific stories that were literally about life and death. I was left in absolutely no doubt that if I was in their shoes, I would sell everything I had and pay whatever it took to get out of that country immediately to save the lives of my family. When we think about trauma in refugees, it is overwhelming: the pre-migration factors that led to them having to flee (persecution, violence, war), the migration factors (journeying on a small, overcrowded boat with no idea how long it will last or whether you’ll survive) and post-migration factors – such as being held in detention and the difficulties of settling in a foreign country.

It is these post-migration traumas that we can help with. It is awful enough for adults, but children are especially vulnerable. Detention increases the exposure of these children to trauma, robs them of developmental opportunities, and increases their risk of mental health disorders.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (of which I am a member) has a position statement on the detention of children that summarises the issues. The High Court’s decision is encouraging, but we still have a way to go in this country in making sure we contribute in a positive way to the mental  health of children and families who seek asylum.

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