*NEW* Healthy Generations: Early Childhood Mental Health

Hot off the presses! https://mch.umn.edu/index.php/Page/View/Resources.

The Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health at the University of Minnesota is very pleased to announce the release of the winter 2010 issue of Healthy Generations.  Each Healthy Generations focuses on a significant MCH topic and includes articles written by leaders in the field. The winter 2009-2010 issue looks at the complex issue of Early Childhood Mental Health.  You can download a copy of this and past issues at https://mch.umn.edu/index.php/Page/View/Resources.  If you would like to request (free) copies for yourself or your organization, please send an email to Jan Pearson at pears014@umn.edu.    If you are not on our mailing list, and would like to be added, please send a request to mch@umn.edu.

Letter from the Editors

In this issue of Healthy Generations, we focus on the mental health of young children, ages birth to five. We are aware that this domain of early childhood has too often been overlooked—only recently drawing considerable professional attention. Why this lack of attention? Perhaps too many have believed that young children, especially infants, cannot experience mental health problems. Infants who cry inconsolably or preschoolers who show excessive biting have often been viewed as “going through a stage” that they will outgrow. This dismissive attitude fits the societal stereotype about mental health problems in general; that is, the tendency to ignore such challenges because a parent or caregiver does not know what to do, or worse, fears being blamed for their young child’s behavior. Dramatic advances in our understanding of early brain development, the critical importance of social environments that stimulate and nurture, and the untoward consequences when relationships to provide this care are absent or unpredictable have taught us that the developmental trajectory towards positive mental health begins early. We now know what can and MUST be done to ensure that ALL infants and young children receive what they need from their caregiving environments to develop into happy, healthy children with positive mental well-being who grow into productive, contributing members of our society.

We want to thank the many professionals who contributed to this volume and shared their expertise about early childhood mental health. We are excited to see that public health thinking is being brought to bear in assuring the mental health of our young children. To present a balanced perspective—promoting positive mental health with attention to mental health problems—we invited articles that provide examples of interventions that promote mental health,  prevent problems in high-risk groups, as well as interventions that treat diagnosed mental health disturbances—in all cases, emphasizing evidence-based practice. Other articles in this volume highlight cutting edge issues related to early childhood mental health—screening and diagnostic assessment, collaborative efforts to develop early childhood and mental health systems of care, and workforce training initiatives in Minnesota.

We are pleased to showcase the wealth of information and strength of resources presented by our professional colleagues in Minnesota. We are also very proud to share with our readers several articles written by graduates in maternal and child public health at the University of Minnesota, who are leaders in this field. As we finalized this volume, we read, with sadness, that Norman Garmezy died on November 21, 2009.  Dr. Garmezy, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, was considered the “godfather of resilience theory.” Among the many findings of Dr. Garmezy and his colleagues was that good relationships with adults exert an effect that is as powerful – or even more powerful  – than the mitigating effects of adversity on child mental health. His work furthered our understanding of how children can flourish in adverse environments  and continues to stimulate researchers at the University of Minnesota and across the globe.

As always, we welcome your feedback about this issue as well as topics for subsequent issues.

Joän Patterson, PhD, LP,  Julia Johnsen, MPH, and Wendy Hellerstedt, MPH, PhD