The theme for this year’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma.” Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are events, such as abuse, neglect, violence, mental illness, hunger, substance abuse, incarceration and even divorce. These events trigger toxic stress which can have a lasting, negative impact on the health and well-being of child, lasting into adulthood. A high number of ACES can lead to early death.
Unfortunately for our children, ACES are common experiences. In the Kaiser Study sample, 40% reported two or more ACES and 12.5% experienced four or more. There is a strong relationship between ACES and the risk of attempted suicides. That risk follows children into adulthood and is increased by the abuse of alcohol, drugs and depression.
In the article Resilience, the Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, the focus on strategies that we as a community can use to bring hope to children in spite of the circumstance, hope that builds resilience in a world of adversity. (Dube, 2001) The strategies developed are:
"Defining resilience as the “ability to thrive, adapt and cope despite tough and stressful times”
Changing the question from “what is wrong with you?”to “what happened to you? “
Recognizing toxic stress as the largest public health issue of our generation
Building critical community collaborations such as, local healthcare, schools, and law-enforcement
Promoting safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments
Preventing care-takers from passing on their toxic stress to their children.
For more information on ACES go to SAMHSA
Dube SR, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Chapman DP, Williamson DF, Giles WH. Childhood Abuse, Household Dysfunction, and the Risk of Attempted Suicide Throughout the Life Span Findings From the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. JAMA. 2001;286(24):3089–3096. doi:10.1001/jama.286.24.3089
If you have concerns for your child, contact your primary care provider or mental health expert.