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What is Infant Mental Health?

Infant mental health is defined as a young child’s capacity to regulate and express emotions, form relationships, and explore the environment and learn--capacities that young children develop based on their environment and the relationships they have with their primary caregivers. In this video, infant mental health specialists and other experts provide a brief overview of the meaning of the term "Infant mental health."

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  • What is Infant Mental Health?

    Denise Webb, IMH-E®, Infant Mental Health Specialist and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:
    I think that infant mental health is sometimes, that phrase is sometimes perceived as, "Oh my gosh!" You know, "There's a mental illness here, in this tiny infant?" But with infant mental health, what we're thinking about is promoting good emotional development.

    Heidi Maderia, IMH-E®, Executive Director, Connecticut Association for Infant Mental Health: Infant mental health concerns that relationship between an infant or a young child and their caregiver, and how that develops into being able to self-regulate and then explore their environment.

    Anne Giordano, IMH-E®, Infant Mental Health Specialist, EdAdvance: All children from their earliest days learn how to regulate, learn how to feel safe, learn how to function based upon the very earliest attachment relationships that they've had with their primary caregiver since birth.

    Denise Webb: How secure do they feel with their primary caregivers? How safe do they feel to explore? How easily are they consoled? You know, do they feel like somebody's going to answer their needs and be able to help them kind of calm down and self-regulate? And you know, can they have pleasurable moments together with people in their life?

    Lisa Candels, Clinical Supervisor, EdAdvance: What we're really looking at is that relationship between the baby and their caregiver. How well is that going and how can we best support it? Because that's what infant mental health is about.

    Mary Watson Avery, Director, Connected Beginnings Training Institute: It's so central to every other skill, and it's so central to how children are able to build every other skill that's going to make them ready for school, that's going to make them successful in life, and it's the stuff of being a human.

    © 2018. This transcript may be reprinted for educational purposes.

  • Video editor and director: Sean Leser
    Script: Julia DeLapp

    This video was created in 2018 as part of an online training for home visitors on infant mental health. The training was created for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Association for Infant Mental Health, in collaboration with the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium. Training authors included Anne Giordano, MA, IMH-E®; Heather Bonitz Moore, ATR-BC, LPC, IMH-E®; JoAnn Robinson, PhD, IMH-E®; and Marianne Barton, PhD, IMH-E®. The training was edited by Heidi Maderia, MS, IMH-E®; Margaret Holmberg, PhD, IMH-E®; Sheryl Goldberg, LMSW, ACSW, IMH-E®; and Julia DeLapp, MA.