Trauma has long been recognised as having long lasting adverse effects on our health and wellbeing, we have become particularly used to media references of trauma suffered by military services following wars or conflicts.
This type of adult trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) has been in the spotlight numerous times and we have all heard of the traumatic effects suffered by people and the importance of timely treatment provided to them.
But for those of us working in young people's and adult services there is another cause of trauma that you may have heard of.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
These are highly stressful, and potentially traumatic, events or situations that occur during childhood or adolescence. This may be a single event, or prolonged threats to a young person’s safety, security or trust. (Young Minds, 2018).
ACEs are thought to include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Living with someone who abused drugs
- Living with someone who abused alcohol
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Living with someone who has gone to prison
- Living with someone with serious mental illness
- Losing a parent through divorce, death, or abandonment
In a 2014 UK study on ACEs, 47% of people experienced at least one ACE with 9% of the population having 4+ ACES (Bellis et al, 2014).
So, we must acknowledge that Adverse Childhood Experiences are unfortunately all too common.
Now let us consider the impact of ACEs and traumatic events on the individuals we support.
Experiencing ACEs can have an impact on our future physical and mental health, and often there is a negative impact on the ability that people who have experienced ACEs to form healthy relationships.
We will often see an increase in the risk of certain health problems in adulthood, such as cancer and heart disease, as well as increasing the risk of mental health difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, violence and becoming a victim of violence. Difficulties can arise when coping with emotions safely without causing harm to self or others.
It is thought that as many as 1 in 3 diagnosed mental health conditions in adulthood directly relate to ACEs.
Crisis Prevention Institute’s training includes a trauma-informed care layer which runs through the entire programme
It helps us as staff to consider both the potential, and the real and enduring effects of trauma and how to avoid causing additional trauma
or retraumatising an individual.
It helps us as practitioners to appreciate the huge impact of ACEs and trauma and begin to see individuals from a more positive perspective, seeing the behaviours they display not purely as problematic but as an expression of previous traumatic events.
In childhood, it is widely recognised that one of the most important factors in avoiding future trauma is having a person with whom the child can have a healthy, caring attachment. This is equally true of adults, one of the key factors to developing resilience is having access to a caring supportive relationship.
We can be that person for someone who has experienced trauma.