Youth and toddlers may need treatment for mental health issues

A new report in this month’s issue of American Psychologist notes that some children from birth to 5 years old may develop mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

“One in five children in poverty has a diagnosable mental health disorder,” according to researchers Joy D. Osofsky and Alicia F. Lieberman.

They noted that infants do not, as commonly believed, simply “grow out” of emotional issues caused by early trauma. According to one study by researchers Ed Tronick and Marjorie Beeghly, infants, who have their own formative emotions and intentions, can perceive the same in the caregivers around them. Both trauma and the events of daily life can negatively affect their development.

Mental issues arise when children have difficulty with “meaning making.” Tronick and Beeghly remarked that “some infants may come to make meaning of themselves as helpless and hopeless, and they may become apathetic, depressed and withdrawn. Others seem to feel threatened by the world and may become hyper-vigilant and anxious.”

Students who are pursuing a Masters in Social Work, who also research mental health in children, may be interested in the researchers’ recommendations. Infants and toddlers should have screenings for mental health issues. Psychiatric professionals who are involved in child welfare should be trained to recognize the risk factors of disorders in the young. If you are interested in working with children with mental health disorders, you can learn more about the Masters of Social Work Online program through the University of New England.

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