Finding Resilience: How childhood trauma impacts future health outcomes

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite

It's now well known that childhood experiences helps shape an individual’s personality long before they reach adulthood. Studies have also gone on to reenforce just how critical adverse childhood experiences can on an adult's health. 

These adverse childhood experiences are commonly referred to as ACEs. They fall into three categories: abuse, neglect and household disfunction. According to information compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as the number of ACEs a child experiences grows, so too does the risk of that child later having negative health outcomes. 

The outcomes can be behavioral issues such as alcoholism or drug abuse or physical and mental health issues such as depression and a higher risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. For example, according to The Tulsa World, a child who experiences four or more ACES is 7.4 times more likely to suffer from alcoholism and twice as likely to experience a stroke or have heart disease.

According to Ellen Roberts, director of Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative with Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, children in Oklahoma experience some of the highest ACE scores in the nation.

“We have extremely high ACE scores in Oklahoma,” Roberts said. “in fact we have the highest ACE score for children from birth to age five.”

In order to further raise awareness of this information the Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative is partnering with Ardmore Literacy Leadership to hold a virtual screening of the 2016 documentary “Resilience,” a film that discusses ACEs and ways to help treat and prevent the toxic stresses that lead to negative health effects. This will be followed by a virtual panel discussion with state and local experts on the topic.

“One of the central figures in the documentary is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris who is now the Surgeon General of California,” Roberts said. “It focuses on her work, and talks about all of the ACEs and the effects that it has on the body.”

While the information covered in the documentary may be shocking, Roberts said viewers will not leave feeling helpless.

“One of the things I really like about the documentary is there is that there is hope with it, and it is solutions oriented,” she said. “I feel like you walk away with it thinking these are some things I can do to help alleviate this.”

Roberts said the panel discussion further explore the topics covered on the film. Panelists will include Mike Carnahan, MD; Kaylyn Gary, executive director of the Community Children’s Shelter and Family Service Center; Amy Miller, area director of Boys and Girls Club of Red River Valley Oklahoma; and Cheryl Step of Creating Resilience, LLC.

“We want to help walk people through the concept of the film,” Roberts said. “If you’re unfamiliar with the material it can be a bit mind blowing. Even if you are familiar it will make you think about the information in new ways and possibly help to mitigate some of those risks in the future.”

The virtual screening will be available online from 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 through 11 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24. The virtual discussion will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25. To register visit www.ardmore-resilience.eventbrite.com. An email with a link and the password for the film will then be sent to registrants. A separate registration link for the Zoom panel discussion will be sent by noon on Sunday, January 24.

For more information contact Ellen Roberts at eroberts@lighthouseok.com or at www.facebook.com/ArdmoreBHC under the events tab.

Adverse childhood experiences lead to an increased risk of negative behaviors and health effects that can impact a person's entire life.
The negative impact of ACEs can lead to  a variety of consequences.
This chart from a 2016 study by the CDC and DHS shows the percentage of respondents who experienced various forms of ACEs
This chart from the CDC shows various methods of preventing and mitigating ACEs.