Childhood Mental Health: Emotional Fundamentals
Most adults are well aware that the lessons children learn in their early years lay the foundation for success later in life. That includes educators, parents, and mental health professionals. Whether they’re educated at home, in a public school, or in a private school, a robust amount of early education and social interaction gives children skills that translate to the workplace on two key levels. First, they learn the academic fundamentals that enable them to perform on the job. Second, they learn the social foundations that allow them to successfully interact with people in the workplace.
It doesn’t matter if a person becomes a rocket scientist, owns a gift shop, or runs a non-profit. Everyone has to learn to balance a checkbook and get along with others. However, there’s more to the story. Recent studies published in England revealed some startling facts. People who show signs of emotional challenges early in life are less likely to become gainfully employed as young adults. According to the studies, early emotional challenges became long-term impediments to consistent adult employment.
A Tale of Two Recessions: 1980 and 2008
The long-range studies, conducted by the University of Stirling’s Behavioral Sciences Center, examined data from over 20,000 individuals involved in the United Kingdom’s National Child Development Study and the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. Researchers focused on mental health and employment statistics for individuals during the recession of 1980 and are now turning their attention to the period immediately following the recession of 2008. When mining the numbers from the early 1980s, they found that upon reaching adulthood, people who’d experienced mental health challenges during childhood showed a 50 percent increase in difficulty finding employment as young adults. The same population of individuals showed a shocking unemployment rate of over 40 percent. Dr. Mark Egan, the head researcher for the program, states:
“Our findings point to childhood mental health as a key factor [that] shapes whether a young person will find a job. We now know that early life emotional problems have a substantial influence on productivity and employment prospects in adulthood. The economic benefit of extending childhood mental health services to address these problems early in life is likely to be substantial.”
Childhood Emotional Fitness
The findings of the English study underscore several points that can help relevant adults in the U.S. create a system of support for our children that’s both comprehensive and holistic.
First, we can extend the concept of our children’s foundational training to include emotional intelligence. Second, we can reduce the negative stigma associated with seeking help for emotional challenges. It’s now becoming more and more obvious that not recognizing emotional challenges and seeking professional help for them is counter-productive. It is, in fact, self-destructive. Third, as individuals, we can pursue ways to further the cause of children’s emotional health. This might mean any number of things. For example, we can volunteering at a local elementary school. Or we can help at a community center or hospital. We can vote also vote and engage in lgrass-roots advocacy. Finally, we can do somethin like help a friend or neighbor find professional support for one of their children.
Whatever the case, the data from England teaches us that as a society, it’s in our best interest to add another piece to the early education of our youth. In addition to teaching academic fundamentals and establishing the foundations of social interaction, we need to find ways of ensuring their emotional well-being as well: their future depends on it.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.