• Heather Pugh, EIS

Infant Mental Health: Part 1 What is Infant Mental Health

MYTH #1: Infants don’t have mental health

What it is not→ individual therapy with a pre-verbal infant. IMH is focused on fostering healthy connections and relationships between the infant and their caregiver to support the infant’s mental health. IMH is also not a one size fits all approach - the goal of an IMH specialist is to listen to the parent, understand their experience, and meet them halfway in a partnership that respects their point of view. What it IS → The developing capacity of the infant and toddler to:

Form close and secure relationships.

Experience, regulate, and express emotions.

Explore the environment and learn.

…all in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations for young children.

MYTH#2: Infants won’t remember the negative experiences they have early in life, including the emotional ones

The truth is, infants are born relationship ready. The relationships they have give them experiences that will, in fact, shape the architecture of their brain. The experiences they have wire their brains for future development

WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER? Infant mental health is synonymous with healthy social and emotional development

Warm, nurturing, protective, stable and consistent relationships provide the fundamental building blocks to IMH.

MYTH#3: Early experiences don’t really count - it’s what happens when they start school that really matters

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study shows that early experiences have lifelong impacts.

MYTH#4: Infants are resilient and will easily recover from early adversity

Toxic stress literally changes the brain, often showing up as challenging behaviors in childhood.

MYTH#5: Infants and toddlers who experience neglect and/or abuse are getting the help they need to address their mental health needs.

Very little is done to monitor a young child’s development overall, much less their mental health. Babies are not showing up in mental health clinics - they are going to the pediatrician’s for well child checks.

MYTH#6: Whatever adversity a child may have experienced before school can be undone by programs offered them.

At this point, the critical period is already behind them and the gap will continue to increase. They need monumental resources.

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