How to Talk About Early Childhood Mental Health
This article in the framing series highlights the communications research on childhood mental health and also provides tools to help us communicate more effectively and promote public policies that reflect what we know about early childhood mental health.
In this framing article, we highlight the communications research on an issue of particular interest within our field: childhood mental health. Not to shy away from a challenge, the FrameWorks Institute embarked on a multi-year study of how experts talk about childhood mental health and mental illness, and how the public understands those concepts. While the research discusses childhood mental health broadly, the results are illuminating, and present insights that will better inform the ways in which practitioners and advocates engage others in discussions around early childhood mental health as well.
More than ever before, the public has an understanding of, and appreciation for, brain development and early childhood development. The public and policymakers recognize that a child’s success is not determined solely by their cognitive development, but also by their social, emotional, and physical development. Yet physical and cognitive development are far easier for the public and policymakers to grasp. The domains of development that are associated with mental health and well-being – namely social and emotional health – remain illusive for many, resulting in misinformation and uneven early childhood mental health policies. With the tools provided by FrameWorks, we can communicate more effectively and promote public policies that reflect what we know about early childhood mental health.
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