Building a Healthy Society

There is great interest today in the development of pathways models of mental health and mental illness. The basic principle of such models is that a child must undergo certain kinds of experiences in order to develop the essential qualities that underlie mental health, and that initial biological and/or social challenges can strongly affect the child’s capacity to engage in these experiences. What we are learning from developmental neuroscience is how the synthesis of biology and experience leads to a developmental trajectory that becomes ever more stable or ever more entrenched. By the time a child enters school, it can be very difficult to alter a maladaptive trajectory. The better we can identify the steps involved in these pathways, therefore, the better we can formulate strategies at the level of the child, the family, and the community, that will serve both to enhance healthy mind and brain-building experiences, and design treatment methods that will help mitigate downstream disorders.