Creating A System That Supports Children’s Mental Health
The experiences of childhood affect both the brain’s architecture as well as the formation of their mental health throughout life. Disruptions during their developmental stage can damage a child’s ability to learn and relate to others, which can have long-term consequences for them. It is possible for society to address a wide range of expensive issues early in life by enhancing children’s settings, connections and experiences. Cases that may affect children’s mental health ranges from incarceration, homelessness, and the inability to complete high school.
A young child may show signs of anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders, conduct disorders (such as oppositional defiance), depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental abnormalities, such as autism. Young infants respond to and digest emotional experiences and traumatic events in radically different ways than adults. Hence, diagnosing a disease in young children can prove more challenging than diagnosing a disease in adults.
Even though our genes carry instructions that direct our bodies on how to function, the chemical “signature” of our surroundings has the ability to permit or impede the execution of those instructions. The interplay of genetic predispositions and prolonged, stress-inducing experiences early in life might result in an unstable foundation for mental health that can last far into adulthood.
It is possible that toxic stress will alter brain architecture and increase the risk that serious mental health disorders will develop. However, whether they do so immediately or over time, the long-term consequences of toxic stress on brain development and other organ systems can have a negative impact on school readiness, academic success, and both physical and mental health throughout a person’s life. Situations that are related to familial stress, such as prolonged poverty, may increase the likelihood of developing major mental health disorders. Young children who are subjected to recurring or chronic abuse or neglect, marital violence, or parental mental health or drug addiction issues are more prone to abuse and neglect.
Some children demonstrate remarkable abilities to overcome the severe challenges of early, persistent maltreatment, trauma, and emotional harm; however, there are limits to the ability of young children to recover psychologically from adversity, particularly when they are abused or neglected as children.
It is not uncommon for children who have been removed from traumatizing situations and placed in exceptionally nurturing homes to still face struggles with self-regulation, emotional adaptability, a sense of self, and self-understanding. When children have been able to overcome these difficulties, they have almost always been the benefactors of extraordinary efforts on the part of caring adults.
It is critical to treat young children’s mental health problems in the context of their families, homes, and communities, rather than treating them in isolation. The emotional well-being of young children is intimately linked to the functioning of their caregivers and the households in which they reside. The development of early mental health issues is significantly increased when these interactions are abusive, threatening, or persistently negligent, or when they are otherwise psychologically detrimental.
HACEY Health Initiative is solely dedicated to helping children maintain a healthy mental state so they can become productive, contributing members of society.
For more information about our mental health and productivity project, please visit www.hacey.org