More than a few questions may come to mind when you hear the phrase “infant mental health”. Do babies really have mental health problems? If they do, how do you know? What kind of therapy would you do with a baby—do you use a very small couch?
As professionals who work with or care for infants, toddlers, or their families, we take responsibility for helping young children grow into healthy, productive, emotionally-secure adults. In our homes, we know that a weak foundation destabilizes the entire structure—and that repairs grow more costly and extensive over time. The brain works the same way. The earliest interactions with others determine the health of a baby’s mind, body, behavior, and relationships for the rest of life. So let’s work to get it right the first time. We owe this work to society and, more importantly, to each child who depends on us.
Supporting infant mental health is everyone’s business. The field’s goals—promoting social and emotional competence in young children, preventing mental illness, and relieving psychological suffering where it exists—are as much a mouthful as the work is challenging, fun, messy, and critical. But it’s not work we expect you to do alone. At the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health (RIAiMH), we believe young children and their families thrive when professionals across disciplines work together to provide care—a very large couch, indeed.
If your role touches the lives of vulnerable infants, toddlers, or families and you are not yet a RIAiMH member, we invite you to join our developing community. Together, we can find effective, innovative ways to ensure all Rhode Island babies get off to the healthy start they deserve. On behalf of all RIAiMH members, thank you for your commitment to our state’s youngest residents.
Susan Dickstein, PhD
President, Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Associate Professor, Brown Medical School
Psychologist, Bradley/Hasbro Research Center
Director, Bradley Early Childhood Clinical Research Center