Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

What Is Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health?

"IECMH is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 years old to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn - all in the context of family, community, and culture. Experts from a range of disciplines consider IECMH to be the foundation of healthy, lifelong development."                                                                                                                                  - The Basics of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: A Briefing Paper, Zero to Three, (Aug 2, 2017) 

Why is IECMH Important?

Those early relationships we experience are essential for the development of positive mental health.

“IECMH reflects both the social emotional capacities and the primary relationships in children birth through age five”                                                                                                                     - What is Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Iowa Association for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health

If we have a lot of negative experiences in those early years it has adverse impacts on brain development and has serious lifelong consequences. If an infant or young child’s emotional health deteriorates significantly they can experience mental health problems. If these mental health problems are not addressed it can have detrimental effects on every aspect of a child’s development. This includes physical, cognitive, communication, sensory, emotional, social and motor skills development. It also affects the child’s ability to succeed in school and in life.

“In fact, young children who do not achieve early social and emotional milestones perform poorly in the early school years and are at higher risk for school problems and juvenile delinquency later in life”                                                                                                                  - The Basics of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: A Briefing Paper, Zero To Three (Aug 2, 2017) 

Research has shown that it is more beneficial and cost-effective addressing mental health problems early through prevention and treatment than attempting to treat them only after they become more serious.   

Selected Behaviours That Warrant Concern

Infants and Toddlers (Birth to 3 Years Old)
- Chronic eating or sleeping difficulties
- Inconsolable ‘fussiness’ or irritability
- Incessant crying with little ability to be consoled
- Extreme upset when left with another adult
- Inability to adapt to new situations
- Easily startled or alarmed by routine events
- Inability to establish relationships with other children or adults
- Excessive hitting, biting, and pushing of other children or very withdrawn behaviour
- Flat affect (shows little to no emotion at all)

Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years Old)
- Engages in compulsive activities (e.g. play enacted in a specific order, hand washing, repeating words silently)
- Throws wild, despairing tantrums
- Withdrawn, shows little interest in social interaction
- Displays repeated aggressive or impulsive behaviour
- Difficulty playing with others
- Little or no communication; lack of language
- Loss of earlier developmental achievements
- Anxious and fearful in most situations
— What is Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Iowa Association for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health

DISCLAIMER

While all care has been taken to ensure information is accurate, all information in this publication is only intended as a guide. Because every person's situation is unique, if you are concerned it is important to consult a professional to obtain advice that relates to your particular circumstances.

 

Annabel TannenbaumComment