The term “toxic stress” may conjure up images of a dangerous chemical for some, but for health scientists and early childhood experts, it’s a serious public health issue that’s getting national attention.
Toxic stress refers to what happens to a young child’s brain when he or she is repeatedly exposed to very difficult situations – from experiencing abuse or trauma to having a family member in jail or with a substance abuse problem. Studies show that the long-term consequences are substantial – from academic challenges in childhood to increased risk of health issues as an adult, including heart disease, diabetes and depression. Studies also show that early help in fostering healthy parent-child relationships can prevent future damage.
This issue falls under the emerging field of early childhood mental health, which focuses on promoting healthy social and emotional development, preventing mental health problems and providing treatment in the context of families. Over the past year, our Child and Family Development and Health programs have been working together with Caring for Colorado Foundation to increase attention on early childhood mental health in Colorado. After completing an environmental scan that identified challenges and opportunities, we launched a collaborative initiative that brings together leading funders from the health and early childhood fields to join in the discussion and action.
“Focusing on early childhood mental health is a critical step for Colorado,” says Jeannie Ritter, former first lady of Colorado, member of our Health Committee and mental health ambassador for the Mental Health Center of Denver. “We now know that these early efforts are foundational for dramatically improving the health and wellness of children and adults throughout Colorado. Once again, Rose Community Foundation is taking the lead in bringing great minds together to collaborate on this far-reaching issue.”
- Learn more about toxic stress and early childhood mental health at https://rcfdenver.org/what-we-do/focus-areas/child-and-family-development/.