Infant Mental Health Matters for a Lifetime
Ensuring the emotional well-being of infants is critical to their overall health and development.1 Predictable, responsive, and nurturing relationships with caring adults help babies develop a sense of security and feel safe exploring the world around them. This curiosity is the base for healthy cognitive and social development.2 Over a lifetime, infant mental health matters for the:
A baby’s relationship with his parents plays an important role in how his brain develops. Too much stress (from trauma, abuse, or neglect) can reprogram his rapidly developing brain so that his body’s stress response system is constantly activated.3
When the body’s stress response system is constantly activated, the stress becomes toxic. Toxic stress in early childhood can alter the way DNA is read and cause physiologic disruptions that persist into adulthood. It is linked to adult health problems like heart disease, asthma, autoimmune diseases, liver cancer and depression.4
Without secure attachment relationships, a child will have more difficulty coping with stress and adapting to change, putting him at greater risk for challenging behaviors and unhealthy habits later on, such as smoking, drinking, and drug abuse.5
Infant Mental Health Home Visiting (IMH-HV)
is a voluntary home visiting model delivered by clinically-trained, master’s level professionals who provide weekly home visits to Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and families with infants. Almost all families served by IMH-HV have past or present experiences (such as unresolved losses, trauma, grief or depression) that threaten the new relationship with their baby. IMH-HV has 3 unique characteristics that separate it from other home visiting models:
- Infant-parent psychotherapy offers parents the opportunity to express and understand their feelings from past or present trauma, loss, abuse, neglect, or depression that threaten to interrupt the development of secure, stable, and enduring parent-child relationships.
- Clinically trained, masters-level professionals with an IMH-Endorsement®, specially trained to provide preventative and therapeutic interventions to help families address unresolved issues that may disrupt a baby’s healthy development.
- Eligible families may be very high risk (i.e. complex and co-occurring needs such as poverty, depression, domestic violence), have more than one child, and/or enroll anytime from pregnancy through a child’s 2nd birthday. IMH-HV also provides case management, developmental guidance, emotional support, life skills, and social support. IMH-HV’s goals are to help parents build secure attachment relationships with their babies; promote a child’s healthy growth and cognitive development; and reduce child abuse and neglect. IMH-HV is a unique service of the Michigan Department of Community Health, provided statewide by 46 community mental health provider agencies.
How IMH-HV Makes a Difference
1550 families throughout Michigan receive Infant Mental Health Home Visiting annually. Babies who have more secure attachment with their parents are less likely to be neglected or abused, and are behaviorally and cognitively better prepared for school.6 Putting babies first saves lives and dollars. Preventing just one child from being a victim of abuse or neglect saves as much as $210,000 over a lifetime.7
1Davidov M., Grusec JE (2006). 2Lally, Ronald J. (2010) 3Center on the Developing Child. Harvard University. (2012). 4Shonkoff, JP, Garner AS, et al. (2012); Kraft, Colleen (2013). 5Schore, Allan N. (2001); Shonkoff,, JP, et al. (2012). 6 Cinchetti D., Rogosch F.A., Toth, S.L. (2006), Davidov M., Grusec J.E. (2006). Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Bornstein, M.H., Baumwell L. (2001.) 7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) 8IMH-E®epresents the nationally recognized Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health®, based on an interdisciplinary set of Competency Guidelines®, developed in Michigan, and adopted by 18 other state IMH associations.
Early Attachments: IMH Home Visiting
The Early Attachments: IMH HV National Board was established 2011. The following Alliance (League of States) and home visiting leaders were asked and agreed to participate on the national board for EA:IMH Home Visiting:
- Betty Tableman
- Fran Jozefowicz
- Brooke Foulds
- Deborah Weatherston
- Shelley Mayse
- Stacey Leakey
- Victor Bernstein
- Doreen Sansom