Mental disorders can seriously affect even infants and toddlers, reveals a new study led by Joy D. Osofsky and Alicia F. Lieberman of the Universities of Louisiana State and California.
The study is a part of a series that is looking into the lack of mental healthcare for children from birth to five years, and is jointly edited by Ed Tronick, University of Massachusetts, and Osofsky. It has been published by the American Psychological Association.
The researchers claim that because of a wrong notion that young children are not afflicted with mental illness, the problem is not identified and treatment is not given which could lead to permanent damage.
Rather than being "immune to the effects of early adversity and trauma because they are inherently resilient and 'grow out of' behavioral problems and emotional difficulties," infants do react to the emotions and intentions of the people around them and make meaning about their own selves. "Some infants may come to make meaning of themselves as helpless and hopeless, and they may become apathetic, depressed and withdrawn," they write.
Hence, when the meaning goes wrong, mental health problems start.
The study has looked at statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services that showed between 2008 and 2010, 79.8 per cent of the children who dies from abuse and neglect were younger than 4 years. The effect of poverty was also under study.
Researchers recommend early screening for infants and toddlers; training professionals in medicine and education to recognize and identify risk factors; integrating infant mental health consultations into other child-related programs; addressing insurance and Medicaid payment policies to provide coverage.