Illuminating a Path to Early Mental Health
Child psychiatrist Bhavin Dave believes in the ability of children with mental health issues to overcome challenges, thrive and become leaders. “In our clinic at Children’s National Hospital, it's standard procedure to help kids understand this,” he says. “We talk about the famous scientist with autism, the famous athlete who had ADHD or the successful people in a child’s community who have had depression or bipolar disorder. Examples are everywhere.”
Early intervention can help set kids on a path to mental wellness. “The earlier you can get to a child with mental health problems, the better you can treat them and prevent future issues,” Dr. Dave says.
If pre-school age children with behavioral or emotional dysregulation or developmental delays go untreated, he explains, they may be unable to attend daycare. This might lead to a parent needing to quit their job, which can cause problems for the family. It also can lead to isolation for the child and missed opportunities for education and socialization. This further delays children’s ability to express themselves and can lead to disruptive or self-destructive behaviors. School suspensions or expulsions can follow, putting even more pressure on parents and community systems. “If we can provide the early support and interventions children need, we can prevent negative outcomes,” says Dr. Dave. He joined the Children National Early Childhood Behavioral Health Program 13 years ago. It’s one of the longest-running pediatric mental health programs in the country and has grown to include what he calls “an incredible mix of people with diverse backgrounds and expertise who work with different types of therapeutic interventions to get kids what they need, which benefits the entire community.” The program, and the dedicated staff behind it, put children on a path to brighter futures.