Early Intervention Critical In Childhood Mental Health

May 18, 2017

Credit Jon Norton / WGLT

By NOT intervening with childhood trauma at an early age, Baby Fold of Normal Training Coordinator Keith Brotheridge said society pays much more in the long run. He cited the Centers for Disease Control "Adverse Childhood Experience" which followed 17,000 people with extensive traumatic experiences.

"$85 billion dollars over the life course in productivity is lost," said Brotheridge. "25 billion in health care costs. 14 billion in other social costs."

Brotheridge and Baby Fold "Healthy Start" Program Supervisor Jennifer Lambert speak at McLean County's Behavioral Health Forum May 18 at the BCPA in Bloomington. Lambert noted five protective factors have been identified that help minimize the impact of trauma when built into communities and aroound families.

"One of the factors is parental resilience," said Lambert. "Basically, does the parent have the ability to manage the everyday life stressors that go on. So if they have the strength or optimism that things are going to be ok, that allows them to be more free to parent and focus on their child and not worry about other things going on."

She also mentioned the importance of social support during difficult times such as knowing how to access concrete services in times of need.

"So if you need child care and have a lot of people around you, you can talk to them when you need to go to the doctor. But if you're isolated and don't know where to go in a community, the chances are you will continue to live with some of those negative things in your life," said Lambert.

Brotheridge noted early mental health intervention has become much more trauma focused since he became a licensed social worker 25 years ago, and especially in the past five to ten years.

"Just in understanding the impact of complex trauma like abuse and neglect have on children, literally the brain is structural and sometimes functionally damaged by early childhood trauma," said Brotheridge. "And you can see through PET scans that the brain isn't operating correctly. Some parts of the brain are overdeveloped and some are underdeveloped."

"And that matters," said Lambert. "Because 80% of your brain is developed by the time you're three. So if you don't have the opportunity for your brain to develop normally, that's going to be a huge impact on your ability to learn, socialize, and function in school."