“One way to think about child mental health is that it’s like the levelness of a piece of furniture, say, a table. The levelness of a table is what makes it usable and able to function, just like the mental health of a child is what enables them to function and do many things. Some kids’ brains develop on floors that are level. This is like saying that the kids have healthy supportive relationships, and access to things like good nutrition and health care. For other kids, their brains develop on more sloped or slanted floors. This means they’re exposed to violence, have unreliable or unsupportive relationships, and don’t have access to key programs and resources. Remember that tables can’t make themselves level — they need attention from experts who understand levelness and stability and who can work on the table, the floor, or even both. We know that it’s important to work on the floors and the tables early, because little wobbles early on tend to become big wobbles later. So, in general, a child’s mental health is like the stability and levelness of a table.” - How to Talk About Children's Mental Health: A Message Memo (Frameworks Institute, p. 12)
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The sooner that babies, children and their families get the support they need, the sooner their brain development can get back to balance. We know what works, so we can play a role in making that possible. However, too often the discussion of mental health leaves out our youngest children and how effective prevention, early identification, and early intervention can be.
What we know works
- Consistent, Nurturing, Responsive Relationships - web page in development. In the meantime, check out these resources from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child.
- Build up Protective Factors - web page in development. In the meantime, check out Five for Families.
- Prevent toxic stress + build resilience & hope - web page in development. In the meantime, check out Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences and the ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) test and resilience test.
- Reduce stigma - web page in development. In the meantime, check out our partner, Wisconsin Initiative for Stigma Elimination (WISE)
- Early Identification and Intervention - web page in development. In the meantime, check out these resources from Harvard or from the American Academy of Pediatrics.