WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Countering the belief
that you have to be "older" to suffer from mental illness, a new
report says there's actually no lowest-age limit.
Infants and toddlers can be affected, but they often go without
treatment that could prevent them from suffering long-term
problems, according to the researchers.
There's a "pervasive, but mistaken, impression that young
children do not develop mental health problems and are immune to
the effects of early adversity and trauma because they are
inherently resilient and 'grow out of' behavioral problems and
emotional difficulties," they wrote in the February issue of
American Psychologist. The issue includes a series of articles about mental health in children under the age of 5.
In fact, infants can develop mental health problems as they deal
with their goals and emotions, the authors of another article
"Infants make meaning about themselves and their relation to the world of people and things," they said, but that process can go wrong. "Some infants may come to make meaning of themselves as helpless and hopeless, and they may become apathetic, depressed and withdrawn. Others seem to feel threatened by the world and may become hyper-vigilant and anxious."
In a third article, researchers reported that insurance may not
cover mental health treatments for kids younger than 3.
What to do? Researchers from Louisiana State University and the
University of California, San Francisco advocate more early
screening, better training and education of people who deal with
children. They also urge better coverage by private insurers and
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on
children's mental health.