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Children's Mental Health: Ecological Versus Mental

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

Today I had the opportunity to co-lead as a panelist, presenting to a group of women that are limited in their resources with very little to no external support. The panelists and I took turns discussing an important topic that, while a commonplace challenge within the Black American community, remains a very sensitive topic of discussion.

When we think of the topic “Mental Health”, we often think of things that immediately place a label on ourselves and or others. These labels are never positive labels and, in my opinion, nothing more than an immediate write-off to what and who we would ideally define ourselves as.

"The topic of mental health is a commonplace challenge in the Black American community, yet remains a very sensitive topic of discussion."

Some things to take into consideration about what may have an effect on our behavior oftentimes could be a simple result of the ecological effects that occur in our everyday lives. As I continue to write out all of my thoughts about today's panel; I challenge you as a reader, learner, student, educator, and or parent to deepen your thoughts and ideas about what exactly behavior is to you and how behavior relates to Children’s Mental Health.

Let's dive deep. Starting from birth we began to not just learn about our physical environment but we began to learn about who is in it as well. At birth, we quickly learn what adults we can trust and why simply based on the rate of our needs being consistently met. At an early age, we learn exactly how to respond when our needs are not being met. The various responses can be observed through behaviors such as crying, yelling, screaming, hitting, biting, self-injuries, and more. This operant behavior that can easily be displayed is the natural consequence of what is currently going on in the environment.

"Is the behavior your child is currently displaying a result of his environment or is it something more complex?"

I challenge you to think deeply. Is the behavior that your child is currently displaying a result of his/her environment with a lack of his/her needs being met or is it something more complex? Is the sudden change in your child’s diet the result of satiation or maybe even lack of proper nutrition?

Does the problem behavior that your child suddenly displays when preparing for school relate to something as simple as a need for scheduling changes or is it something more difficult to explain? Gentle Reminder Over the course of time, we adults have learned how to cope when we feel certain ways.

On days that I may feel low, or extremely high I have learned to cope with my emotions by writing in my personal journals, consistent prayer, talking with family members, going for a walk outdoors, etc. Being that I have the skill set to regulate my personal emotions and over time improved my strategies, I would never expect a child to know how to do the same.

Children do not obtain the same coping tool belt that we adults currently have and the result of their lack of ability is displayed through their behaviors. As I come to a close on today’s blog, I want you as a reader to understand that ALL behavior in every moment of the day is a form of communication.

What is it that your child is trying to communicate to you that you are not completely understanding? Before placing a label on your child, have you considered the environment that the child is currently in? Is this really a mental disability or is it an ecological issue?

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