Childhood trauma can have long term health effects on individuals.
That’s one of the takeaway messages that came out of the documentary screening of Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope Oct. 14 at the Ponoka Capitol Theatre.
The free screening was hosted by the Ponoka Early Childhood Development Coalition and the Ponoka Parent Link Centre with the goal of changing the focus around intervention and prevention.
Educational licensing for the film was purchased by the Early Childhood Development Support Services (ECDSS), which helped create the opportunity for the screening. The film follows a study of how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can be linked to destructive behaviour and it shows how some areas in the Unites States have changed their focus to preventative supports.
Helping guide the conversation was Line Perron, executive director at ECDSS. The actual ACES study was conducted in the 1990s and is now seeing actions from those studies from Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda who studied 17,000 patient volunteers.
“They were able to link some fairly compelling correlations between the number of ACES an individual has and some of the potential outcomes that individual is susceptible to,” explained Perron.
Stresses as a child could have outcomes later in life such as cancer, heart attack, depression, anxiety and health risk behaviours such as addictions. She says that correlation is not well understood within the health community and the documentary hopes to change the discussion and potential solutions.
“What we’re trying to do is bridge that knowledge so that practitioners change their lens when they’re working with individuals that, let’s say, come in suffering with addiction,” said Perron.
The purpose is to look at the problems when they started rather than seeking interventions to one specific area.
For children living in an environment of neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, their association and understanding of their lives are different than those of children living in a loving and nurturing environment.
“That child grows up thinking that that environment of abuse, neglect and violence is the norm and it creates their template later on in life,” said Perron, adding that even if they are in a positive relationship, they may not see that for what it is.
She suggests there are a few opportunities for solutions. One is to raise awareness of how trauma affects children. “The second one is how we relate to those individuals and the kind of supports we put in place.”
Rather than dealing with one issue as a band aid fix, Perron feels starting from the beginning is important.
“We need to build those supports around healthy relationships. We need to create safety,” said Perron, pointing out that safety means different things for different people.
The idea of kids ‘getting over it’ or to ‘just deal with it’ is not realistic. “You wouldn’t build a house on a shoddy foundation…that foundation is not going to sustain what you build on it. That’s the same for individuals.”
One of the successes pointed out in Resilience was seeing whole communities embracing the shift in prevention and support. It notes that the Washington State Department of Health used trauma informed principles and approaches to dealing with social issues.
That move saw a drop in teen suicides, drug addiction, crime and domestic abuse, which identified savings in areas of health and care.