For World Mental Health Day 2022, an expert explains how parental mental health can affect the child's mental health.
Parental mental health can significantly impact the development and mental health of a child who's dependent on them. The impact can be direct or indirect. World Mental Health Day is marked on October 10, every year. For World Mental Health Day 2022, OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Himani Narula, Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician Director & Co-founder of Continua Kids, to know about the impact of parental mental health on the child's mind.
Various parental factors that directly impact their child's mental health include genetic makeup, the intrauterine environment, and antenatal exposure to maternal anxiety and depression. Certain factors like family dysfunction, marital conflict, and postnatal depression are some of the indirect parental factors that can impact a child's mental health. Mental health illnesses can affect the development and mental health of a child. It has been shown to impact a child's cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioural development. These children later in their adolescence and adult lives are at risk of developing psychiatric disorders. It has been observed. That one in 14 children with mental health concerns had one of the parent-reported poor mental health.
Research says that newborns up to five years of age, followed by adolescents, are the most vulnerable because that is when the brain's development is at its peak. These two are critical phases of brain development when children and adolescents are at higher risk of mental health concerns. Hence, healthy minds and good mental health of parents are of utmost importance to the growth and development of young kids The plasticity of the brain during this period makes it most vulnerable to the impact of stressors, hence it is referred to as a sensitive period.
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Parental mental illness can lead to harshness and disengagement from the child's needs. Poor parental mental health can act as a stressor for children and poor parental engagement can lead to a wide range of emotional disturbances like insecurity and distress and in early years leading to developmental delays. We cannot control the genetic risk, but by providing a nourishing and happy environment, we have a greater possibility of reducing mental health illness in young ones.
The concept of 1000 days that is from the time of conception to the first 2 years of life is of utmost importance when the foundation for optimum health and development across the lifespan is established. Hence taking care of the mental health of the mother in the preconception phase, during pregnancy and prevention of postnatal depression postnatally are important so that she can contribute to a nourishing, enriching, and happy environment for the baby to grow and develop. The foundation of emotional health is laid in early childhood, and teaching emotional hygiene, preventing mental health disorders by early identification and treatment of these disorders can reduce the challenges in the generations to come.
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