Resource

ZERO TO THREE Observes Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May 2, 2016

Highlights importance of access to mental health services, starting at birth.

ZERO TO THREE is proud to partner with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration to honor National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. ZERO TO THREE recognizes Awareness Day as an opportunity to shine a national spotlight on how positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.

“The science is clear. Early connections form the foundation of mental health, future learning and relationships for infants and toddlers,” said Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE. “Starting at birth, nurturing relationships with consistent primary caregivers help infants and toddlers build positive attachments that support healthy social-emotional development.”

The theme for this year’s Awareness Day, “Finding Help. Finding Hope.” will focus on how communities can improve access to mental health services and supports for children, youth, and young adults with mental and substance use disorders and their families. SAMHSA will host an Awareness Day event on May 5 at 7 p.m. EDT in Washington, D.C., which will be available for viewing via live webcast. More information on Awareness Day can be found at samhsa.gov.

Accessing mental health services is particularly challenging for families with infants and toddlers. There is a critical shortage of qualified infant and early childhood mental health providers, making it difficult for families to find the appropriate treatment. When left untreated, mental health problems can take root early and get worse over time, with potentially serious consequences for early learning, social competence, and lifelong health. Congress recently took an important step to address this lack of access, adding a provision to the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 for prevention, intervention, and treatment programs specifically for very young children. ZERO TO THREE spearheaded the effort to add this measure to the bill, which will soon be considered by the full Senate.

“I’m proud that ZERO TO THREE has been a leader in raising awareness and advocating for legislation to benefit infant and early childhood mental health for nearly 40 years,” said Melmed.

ZERO TO THREE’s website, zerotothree.org, offers an extensive array of online resources dedicated to infant and early childhood mental health, including a new policy brief and webinar, Planting Seeds in Fertile Ground: Steps Every Policymaker Should Take to Advance Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. Additionally, this December, ZERO TO THREE will release DC:0-5™ Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood. This expanded version of ZERO TO THREE’s groundbreaking resource manual includes diagnoses of children from birth through five years old, and draws on the latest research in the field.