Life Transitions and Mental Health

by Victoria Long-Coleman, Ph.D.









"May was Mental Health Awareness month. OK, why are you telling me?"

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2021),  


  • In the U.S., almost half of adults (46.4 percent) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.

  • Half of all mental disorders begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24.

  • Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019) (para. 1).


In line with the National Center for Health Statistics (2020), the percentage of adults who experienced any symptoms of depression was highest among those aged 18–29 (21.0%), followed by those aged 45–64 (18.4%) and 65 and over (18.4%), and lastly, by those aged 30–44 (16.8%). In the U.S., the likelihood of you suffering a mental illness incident is about 1 out of every 2 adults, meaning you have a 50% chance of a mental illness incident during your lifetime.


What is Mental Health?

      Mental health is defined as a person’s condition regarding their psychological and emotional well-being. Mental illnesses vary ranging from mild to moderate to severe (NIMH, 2021). Psychological or mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors (WHO., 2018). Family child care providers are in positions to influence other groups of people, namely the children and families in their business and their own family. Managing mental health is critical to the family child care provider and the social groups of the provider. The National Association of Mental Health (2021) maintained:

  • people with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.

  • 18.4% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2019 (9.5 million individuals).

  • high school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers.

  • students aged 6-17 with mental, emotional or behavioral concerns are 3x more likely to repeat a grade.

The lack of mental health care can have a ripple effect which can influence the children and families in the family child care provider’s business, the relationship with the provider’s family and friends, and as the statistics indicate, can extend to the community.





Life Transitions

     All humans live their lives. Yet how individual humans live their life, varies. Each person experiences life transitions or what I call “seasons of life” defined as moving from one stage to another. Transitions during the life process for an individual can become a time of uncertainty; a time when individuals are vulnerable (DeJesus, 2021). If people cannot navigate through life transitions and manage their mental health, living life can be quite challenging for the family child care provider’s future, the children and their families in their business, and the family members and friends around them.

     Maslow (1943) claimed every person experiences a hierarchy of needs (basic, mental, and self-fulfillment) that function as stairs to transition from one level of need the next level. If the family child care provider can navigate the transition effectively, they will move up the stairs. If the family child care provider does not, they may or may not move up the stairs, and may even move down the stairs. Navigating life can be tricky.    













Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs


Life Transitions on Mental Health

     DeJesus (2021) said transitions can fall in three categories under an overall framework of “love.”











DeJesus’ (2021) “love” framework


Three main categories are:

  1. presence means you have someone there for you; someone that indicates, “I’m here,” “I’ve got your back,” “I am here for you.” It can be someone or people you consider as family, friends, associates, or even acquaintances. It is not necessary that your family is biologically connected to you.

  2. nurture means someone or something is going to help you, hear you, “feed” you so you feel that resolving your challenges is going to be okay. It may be financial, mental, or physical support, a person’s time, etc. Whatever way an individual needs to be “fed” to come out on the other side of the challenge and be ready to excel, at least until the next challenging transition arises.

  3. equipment means what tools, resources, or information that may help the individual navigate the challenge. What does the individual need?

     Under an overall theme of love, having support, nurturing, and the necessary tools increase an individual’s chance of overcoming challenges while protecting your mental health. Family child care providers commonly work on their own so they must intentionally seek out others to receive presence, nurturing, and equipment. Even if it is just one person.   


     Like everyone, family child care providers will have certain periods in life where managing transitions will test their will. Preparation is key as a proactive means to protect their mental health. DeJesus (2021) claimed when the brain and heart is taken care of, there is a domino effect throughout the body. Take an honest look at your struggles. The problem is not the problem. Yet not having presence, nurturing, and equipment are the keys to overcome problems.


For more information:

DeJesus, M. (2021). The Impact of Life Transition on Mental Health (video).

Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation, Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). (2020). Symptoms of depression among adults: United States.

NCHS Data Brief, 379, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NAMH. (2021). Mental health by the numbers. National Alliance on Mental Health.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2021). Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

W.H.O. (2018). Mental health: Strengthening our response. World Health Organization.

“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken (adults)” – Frederick Douglas

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