The Mental health imperative: early childhood

Jody Britten
Jun 16 · 3 min read

We have hit a point where something has to systematically change. Today, one in five children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen live with a mental health condition. Suicide is the third most cause of death for children starting at age ten; the majority of those suicides are tied to mental health issues.

Couple those horrifying statistics with the fact that there is a eight to ten year gap between onset of issues and intervention and we have (without question) failed our children.

Today one in six children ages three to eight has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Age is one of the leading indicators of treatment; with data showing evidence that behavior problems and anxiety of three to five year olds is increasingly on the rise.

The median age for initial diagnosis of anxiety disorders if three years old.

More than half of all mental illness has onset prior to age fourteen. This is beyond horrifying, yet we systematically are not addressing the issue of early intervention.

When intervention most commonly begins at age fourteen and the gap between onset of issues and intervention is so high it is safe to bet that we have work to do to support the positive mental health of our youngest.

With over 17 million of young people suffering from mental illness our solutions have to be big and broad.

That is why we have taken the initial steps to connect parents, educators, policy makers, and health care providers. Because all of this cannot be on one stakeholder group alone.

We can not wait until our children reach public school (especially when too many states don’t require education until age seven). We can not put the burden of identification on parents who have no education, and often times no support system. We can not let the burden of identification rest on a fifteen minute well-child check visit with pediatricians.

We need to break down barriers of care. We need to clean up our data. We need to revolutionize our outreach. We need to do all we can to support our young children.

Our mantra for support of systems that care for and love young children is this:

Catch them early, catch them often.

While we are in the early stages of revolution we are making things happen and when this story comes to a close our goal is to see scaled solutions that our young children need and deserve.

We will do better.

Because we can do better.

Keep up with our progress as we break down barriers and work tirelessly to support young children. This isn’t a new imperative but it’s time to take action, and we will do our best to initiate and sustain progress.


A publication for early learning professionals working to support children ages 0–5 their educators and families.

Jody Britten

Written by

fierce mom, constant learner, writer, speaker, researcher, thinker, designer, gadget queen, advocate for learning that matters & public ed, lead with my actions



A publication for early learning professionals working to support children ages 0–5 their educators and families.