Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

‍‍‍Everyone can take action to promote and protect infant and early childhood mental health where we live, work and play.

Check out the information to learn what you can do to support and model positive mental health for infants and young children.  

Courses

Brain Story Certification 

Created by the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative. It is a free online course for professionals and the public.

The Brain story provides a deeper understanding of infant and early child brain development and its connection to addiction and mental health.

To register or for more information, please visit Brain Story Certification web page. 

Trauma Informed Practice

The consequences of trauma are far reaching and can be directly or indirectly linked to mental illness, addictions, chronic disease, suicide, and overall, a failure to thrive.
The purpose of the Trauma Informed Care course is to increase knowledge about trauma and the impact it has by creating connection, sharing knowledge and resources.

To register or for more information, please visit Alberta Health Services web page. 

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Healh (IECMH) Guides for Professionals

Introduction to the guide

Mental health refers to striking a balance in all aspects of one’s life: socially, physically, spiritually, economically and mentally1.

It is more than the absence of a mental health condition or illness. Infants and young children have mental health. It is the “developing capacity of the child, from birth to six years of age, to form close and secure adult and peer relationships to experience, manage and express a full range of emotions, and to explore the environment and learn – all in the context of family, community, and culture2.”

It is also important to recognize that brain development begins in pregnancy. Therefore, the prenatal period must also be considered in relation to IECMH.

The purpose of this guide is to provide support and information to professionals when they have the conversation about IECMH and its interrelated components.

 

References

  1. Canadian Mental Health Association: Mental Health for all [Internet]. Ottawa, ON; 2005-2016 [cited 2016 Nov 2016] Available from https://cmha.ca/resources/
  2. Clinton J, Kays-Burden A, Carter C, Bhasin K, Cairney J, Carrey N, Janus M, Kulkarni C, Williams R. (November 2014). Supporting Ontario’s youngest minds: Investing in the mental health of children under 6. [Internet]. Ottawa (ON): Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health: [cited 2016 Nov 16]. Available from http://www.excellenceforchildandyouth.ca/sites/default/files/policy_early_years.pd 
Individual Guides 
Complete Set  
Infographics
 
Centre of the Developing Child: Harvard University 
Infant and Early Childhood Mental Healh (IECMH) Infographic
View (IECMH) Infographic Text
 

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Infants and young children have mental health. It is the developing capacity of the child from birth to six years of age 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 culture1. It is comprised of multiple interrelated components.

It is also important to recognize that brain development begins in pregnancy. Therefore, the prenatal period must also be considered in relation to infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH).  

Perinatal mental health: refers to the mental health of the mother pre pregnancy, during pregnancy, and in the postpartum period2.

Parental mental health: is more than the absence of a mental health condition or illness; it refers to striking a balance in all aspects of the caregiver's life: socially, physically, spiritually, economically and mentally3.

Brain development: Brain Development begins in pregnancy and undergoes its most rapid period of growth during the first 2000 days - It is the most important time of brain growth4.

Attachment: Is a deep and lasting connection babies form with their caregivers. Babies need to feel safe, cared for, and protected. When caregivers respond consistently in a manner that is warm and sensitive a secure attachment develops. A secure attachment is foundational to positive developmental outcomes and future relationships with peers and partners5.

Temperament: Is a set of personality traits that people are born with. A child's temperament can shape their outcomes and influence how others respond to them5.

Self-regulation: Refers to how efficiently and effectively children deal with stressors and then recover from them6.

Resiliency: Develops over time and is the ability to bounce back from adversity in a positive way5.

Sense of agency: Is the child's ability to make choices and decisions that have an influence in their environment. It is linked to having a sense of control over matters that affect them7.

Mental illness and poor mental health is a problem... 

In Ottawa

  • Since 2010, mental health emergency visits at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario have increased by 75%8.
  • In the last year, 45% of children who accessed Crossroads Children's Centre walk-in clinic were under the age of 6. In their intensive home based program, supporting families with severe challenges, 30% of the children are also under the age of 69.
  • In 2015-16, 17% of children under the age of 6, who accessed Centre Psychosocial, were referred to the early screening program. 50% of these children were referred to other agencies for specialized developmental assessments or services10.
  • Based on Early Development Instrument (EDI) data, one in four (26%) children are vulnerable in one or more areas of their development as they enter school11.
  • One in eight (12%) of grade 7-12 students had seriously considered suicide in 201312.

In Canada

  • 70% of mental health problems start during childhood or adolescence13.
  • The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases13.

Poor mental health also costs our economy...

  • In Ontario the annual cost of alcohol-related health care, law enforcement, corrections, lost productivity, and other problems is estimated to be at least $5 billion13.
  • In any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems13.
  • The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life13.

The evidence is clear that prevention and early intervention are important1...

  • Economists have shown that high-quality early childhood programs bring impressive returns on investment to the public. Studies found a range $4 to $9 return on investment for every dollar invested in early learning programs for low-income children14.
  • Early interventions such as parenting programs have a higher economic rate of return to society than interventions offered later in life such as remedial education, prisoner rehabilitation, and public job training programs15.

Don't wait. Starting early can change the trajectory of a child's mental health.

  • From conception to age 6 is the most influential time in brain development. Early experiences especially in the first 2000 days 4 can have an effect on the wiring and sculpting of the brain that can influence a child's learning, behaviour and health for a lifetime16.
  • The developing brain makes 1 million new brain connections every second14.

As a community... Let's talk about infant and early childhood mental health!

Where do we go from here1...

  • Adopt and promote the common definition of infant and early child mental health across all sectors.
  • Invest in training the infant and early childhood mental health workforce, recognizing the many roles and sectors with a direct stake in infant and early childhood mental health.
  • Ensure the provision of infant and early childhood mental health promotion, prevention and intervention in all service areas.
  • Engage families and caregivers together with service providers in developing and implementing infant and early childhood mental health policy and system planning.
  • Strengthen data collection, monitoring and research on infant and early childhood mental health and improve communication among ministries.

References

For more information on the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative in Ottawa or a complete reference list, please contact:

Marisa Moher, Steering Committee (Secretariat)

Mindmasters 2 (Coming Soon)

MindMasters2 is a mental health promotion resource that helps children to master emotional regulation through relaxation, positive thinking and mindfulness.

It introduces children to these skills in fun and age-appropriate ways. With practice, children can use these skills on their own, in a variety of settings throughout their lifetime.

MindMasters 2 was developed by the Child and Youth Health Network for Eastern Ontario and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. It is now a program of Ottawa Public Health. It is designed for adults (both parents and professionals) to use with children ages 4-9 years. 

It includes a guidebook (with instructions, discussion questions and link to the Ontario Elementary curriculum) printable templates and media files (audio tracks, videos, songs).

Posters

The Pause.Moments Matter in the Life of a Child campaign was developed, in collaboration with the Ottawa Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) initiative, to raise awareness about the importance of IECMH. 

Individual Posters
Complete Set
Referral Pathways
Screening Tools
  • The Ages and Stages Questionnaires™ (ASQ) are used to screen young children in ages 1 month to 6 years to help determine if a young child's development is on schedule – or if further evaluation may be needed. It is also used to help parents together with providers, learn more about a child's strengths and areas that may need support.
  • The Looksee Checklist® (formerly Nipissing District Developmental Screen®-NDDS) is a short and simple checklist. It reviews a child's growth and development at a specific age (up to 6 years old).
  • The First Words Communication Checkup is an online screening tool available to families of children aged 6 months to 5 years living in the city of Ottawa. Use it to check a child’s speech, language, social communication, fine and gross motor skills.
  • The NutriSTEP® is simple checklist. It looks at a child's eating, physical activity, screen time habits and more.
  • The Healthy Smiles for Young Children (18 to 36 months) (PDF 131 KB) screening tool can help to detect dental problems. It allows you to get treatment for a child sooner. Dental health is important for a child's health and school readiness.
  • The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) is a set of 10 screening questions that can indicate whether a parent has symptoms that are common in women with depression and anxiety during pregnancy and in the year following the birth of a child. This is not intended to provide a diagnosis – only trained health professionals should do this.
Resources

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