What exactly is infant mental health? It is loosely defined as the healthy social and emotional development of a child from birth to three years old. What does that mean exactly? Haven’t parents been nurturing their young socially and emotionally since time immemorial? Why does the field of mental health need to get involved?
There really is no need for a visit to a psychiatrist regarding an infant’s mental health. Parents already have their hands full just making sure their baby has been fed, changed and napped often enough. Parents already go to the pediatrician to check on physiological developments such as steady growth and adequate weight gain. Even when those aren’t perfect, it’s just monitored and not a cause for concern. But apparently that isn’t enough. We are expected to believe that a child this young could exhibit signs of a “mental disorder.”
In a nutshell, psychiatry has taken human behavior and decided that anything out of the ordinary or “abnormal” is a “mental disorder” or “mental illness.” These days, it is the psychiatrist who decides what is “normal,” not the parent. The problem with this is how can you possibly measure the emotional and social development of a one-year old, for example?
At that age, language skills are still developing so it can’t be expected to get the full picture from the baby. You can ask the parents what they have observed, but do they know without a doubt what is going on in the world of a one-year old? An adult wouldn’t tolerate being diagnosed based on everyone else’s views, so why do that to a baby?
In addition, psychiatry has no scientific test such as a blood test or urine test to measure a “mental disorder” in an infant or anyone else for that matter. Their diagnoses are based solely on their opinions regarding some symptoms. This lack of tests only produces imprecise diagnoses. “Expert” opinions are scientifically invalid which makes infant mental health a useless tool.
However, their manual called the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood-Revised (DC: 0-3R), is based on “a growing understanding of early cognitive development.” The question is, if they have no tests, then where is the evidence of this “growing understanding” coming from? Despite any scientific evidence, it doesn’t deter them from using it to diagnose “mental disorders” such as depression, “anxiety disorders”, “communication disorders”, “mood disorders” and “feeding behavior disorders” to name a few in this age range.
Take depression for example. How does one ascertain that an infant or child is depressed? Children’s emotions vary greatly and can be all over the place. They are not comparable to those of adults, so what are psychiatrists trying to achieve here? As mentioned earlier, anything beyond the “norm” or even some behaviors considered “normal” are now “mental disorders.” Mental retardation has been around forever but is now a “mental disorder.” Perhaps psychiatrists are trying to confuse the general public so we don’t think there is any difference between the ones truly born mentally handicapped and the ones that they have decided are mentally “abnormal.”
Excessive crying is an official “mental disorder” and is said to be a precursor to behavior and emotional problems as a toddler. The symptoms are more than three hours a day, more than three days a week for more than three weeks. Twenty years ago, a baby that cried a lot like this was called “fussy” or had colic. Now it’s a term under the umbrella of infant mental health. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to take a look at what the baby is eating? Wouldn’t it be better to find out what is the physiological or environmental problem causing the crying instead of making it a mental health issue?
Even worse, excessive crying has been treated with antidepressants. These powerful mind-altering drugs can’t possibly help the small developing body or brain of a baby or toddler. A “leading” psychiatrist in New Zealand regularly prescribes antidepressants to babies because he says there is no evidence that they cause harm in babies. How can a so-called “expert” be so arrogant? There are a multitude of drugs taken off the market when they were found to cause a stroke, heart attack, diabetes or something serious in adults, so how can he assume that no published study means they are safe for babies?
Adding insult to injury, this same New Zealand psychiatrist also doesn’t hesitate to prescribe psychotropic drugs to those under two years old to make life easier for the parents! Is that what infant mental health stands for today? Making life easier for adults? If you look at the skyrocketing use of psychiatric drugs to make kids sit still in class, it certainly looks like it is trickling down that way.
Perhaps this particular psychiatrist is an extreme case, but it is a fact that “mental disorders” are being diagnosed in children as often as the common cold. The difference is that the common cold is caused by a virus and “mental disorders” have no specific causes. Theories abound but science is missing. Psychiatric drugs are plentiful and so are their debilitating side effects.
The best thing parents can do is provide a loving and nurturing environment for their baby. If something really seems wrong, do your homework and get the truth. Only then can you make an informed decision and stay out of the infant mental health trap.