Early childhood mental health is the social, emotional and behavioral well-being of children birth through six years and their families, including the capacity to:
- Experience, regulate and express emotion
- Form close, secure relationships
- Explore the environment and learn
Early childhood mental health is influenced by:
- Physical characteristics of the young child
- Quality of the adult relationships in the child's life
- Care-giving environments the child is in
- Community context in which the child and family lives
Ohio's ECMH Initiative
Early relationships and experiences at home and in other environments set the stage for how a child learns to manage his, her or their emotions. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) provides cross-system leadership through its Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) initiative that supports evidence-based training to equip parents and caregivers of young children with the skills to help their children develop into mentally healthy people. Parents and teachers who effectively nurture, support and connect with young children, especially those experiencing social or emotional difficulty, can help improve or prevent future disabling problems.
The ECMH initiative is aimed at promoting healthy social and emotional development (i.e., good mental health) of young children (birth to six years). It focuses on ensuring these children thrive by addressing their behavioral health care needs, which increases their readiness for school and later academic success. This is accomplished by building protective factors in young children’s lives and increasing competencies and skills of parents and early childhood providers. Much of the development and implementation of the Ohio ECMH program has been built upon the research and resources available from the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.