By Sarah Ovaska-Few
The traumatic events we suffer as children can lead to lasting physical and mental health challenges, two decades of research show.
But those negative health outcomes don’t have to be a child’s destiny, researchers say.
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, ground-breaking research that has been routinely updated since 1998, follows some 17,000 participants through their lives and links the presence of childhood abuse, neglect, homelessness, life in violent neighborhoods and early exposure to substance abuse to negative health outcomes later in life.
Sharon Hirsch, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, says communities, employers and others can and should step in to help reshape the paths for children in such situations. They can help by talking about ways to build community resilience, encourage employers to adopt policies that support young families, and build connections to show children they are supported, Hirsch said.
“What happened in your childhood does affect you for the rest of your life but the science is really clear; it’s not your destiny,” Hirsch said.
That’s why Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has teamed up with UNC-TV, the Child Trust Foundation, the Winer Family Foundation and others to host Resilience Week, a series of educational events and efforts featuring a statewide airing on UNC-TV’s public television station of an hourlong documentary about adverse childhood experiences.
Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a proclamation declaring this week ACES Awareness Week.
The highlight documentary, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope” by KPJR Films, will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on UNC-TV public television stations.
Following the broadcast, there will be a Twitter town hall from 9 to 10 p.m., where viewers can use the hashtag #ResilienceWeek and share their reactions and thoughts with national and state experts including Resilience Director James Redford, who also is slated to weigh in.
What you need to know:
Watch “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope” at 8 p.m. Tuesday on UNC-TV stations (For exact broadcast channels and ways to stream, go here.)
A Twitter town hall will follow from 9 to 10 p.m., use the hashtag #ResilienceWeek to participate.
More about Resilience Week available here.
Other experts include Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist and senior fellow at Child Trauma Academy, and Melissa Merrick, the CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. Merrick is also an epidemiologist who authored a recent CDC report that estimated prevention of adverse childhood experiences could lead to 21 million fewer cases of depression and up to 1.9 million fewer cases of heart disease in the country.
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has held screenings of the Resilience documentary for more than 10,000 individuals in the state, largely those who work closely with families and children. The Tuesday screening on public television is a chance to reach an even larger audience and hopefully stimulate conversations about how to combat the effects of trauma, Hirsch said.
“We hope communities will come together and think about ways they can be a stronger support for families,” Hirsch said.