A closer look at ACEs Study
Workshop offers view on childhood trauma’s impact on adults
Data, collected through the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study revealed the impact of childhood trauma on future health. The results were shocking.
The study, conducted between 1995 and 1997, was the first of its kind to investigate how childhood trauma could directly influence the likelihood of developing chronic conditions from depression and diabetes to heart disease and obesity later in life.
“I saw the results and wept,” Dr. Robert Anda, co-founder of the ACE Study said in the film Resilience, an hour-long documentary focusing on the impact of the ACE Study. What the study revealed was not only how prevalent childhood trauma was, but how the effects can last a lifetime. The film also shows how health professionals and community groups are now combatting the adverse effects one child at a time.
School administrators, teachers and staff gathered on Thursday, May 23, for a free viewing of the film and workshop at Southern Westchester BOCES.
Brandon Cruz, supervisor of school safety and facilities at SWBOCES, hosted the screening.
In his experience, he said, schools have come to interpret “school safety” to be a focus on active shooter drills or lockdowns and much less on health or mental health.
Last year the State of New York mandated that public school health classes include information on mental health for the first time, Mr. Cruz said.
He was inspired to reach out to those on the front lines — teachers, school resource officers and mental health professionals, to offer a collaborative effort in improving outcomes for children.
The screening of the film is the first step in spreading awareness and developing interventions for children and their families.
“A lot of things we see as symptoms of behavior are really coping mechanisms, or traumatic stress responses,” Andrew Bell, program director of children’s mental health with the Westchester Country Department of Community Mental Health, who spoke at the workshop, said.
His agency works to weed out the causes of trauma and toxic stress and assist children to get help and support.
The film, Dr. Bell said, has been shown to at least 3,000 people throughout Westchester.
“Part of why it’s so popular is because it invites a lot of discussion,” he said.
Following the screening, participants had an opportunity to take the ACE Study questionnaire themselves. Individuals can tally their score, which is calculated by determining how many of the 10 traumas the ACE Study identified that they have personally experienced. These traumas include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, mental illness, having an incarcerated relative, witnessing domestic violence perpetrated on their mother, substance abuse among family members and divorce.
The workshop also included a discussion session focusing on practical steps those who work with children can take to ensure children receive the help and support they need to avoid serious health issues as they age.