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Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Lesson created by Alison Boven using

Video from TED YouTube Channel

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It is known that childhood trauma can have long lasting negative mental effects. As explained in this video by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, it also can have negative long term physical health consequences. Take this lesson to learn more and to find resources to build resilience skills to address this health risk. 
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Most of the adverse childhood events are forms of childhood maltreatment - physical, sexual, emotional abuse; neglect; and exposure to parental intimate partner (or domestic) violence. Click here for an overview of these forms of maltreatment. Some forms of maltreatment are higher among socioeconomically disadvantaged families and issues like adult suicidality, mental illness, criminality, substance abuse overlap with the presence of child maltreatment in the home (Wekerle & Wall, 2002).

ACEs too high is a website that reports on developments in Adverse Childhood Experience research. It also has the questionnaire used in the ACE Study available to take online. After you get your score, there are resources and next steps available. There is also a resilience questionnaire that can be taken at the end. Click here to take the questionnaire.

If you want to read some of the research that has been done based on the ACEs data, a list of publications are available here.

Skills of resilience include learning proper empathy, self-efficacy, impulse control and more to change your mindset. This TED Talk by Carol Dweck explores the possibility that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn by changing our mindset.

If you are concerned about incidents of child abuse and neglect, contact your local police, emergency department, paediatrician, and child welfare services. Resources can be found at Child Welfare Gateway, and Center for Disease Control.

Wekerle, C. & Wall, A. (2002). The violence and addiction equation: Theoretical and clinical issues in substance abuse and relationship violence. Toronto, ON: Taylor & Francis.

Dr. Burke Harris says in her talk that when we recognize adverse childhood events as a public health crisis, we can then start to use the right toolkit to treat and prevent this problem. But the response has not been that great. This is because of the stigmatization of mental health issues, and the tendency of our society not to talk about trauma or abuse. We often don't want to talk about these things because we don't want to feel uncomfortable or we think that we're alone in our suffering. However, the truth is that it is a lot more common than we realize and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. When we can address the issue head-on, we can begin to solve it.

"This is treatable, this is beatable. The single most important thing that we need today is the courage to look this problem in the face and say 'This is real, and this is all of us.'"
--Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Avatar for Alison Boven
Lesson Creator
Healthcare professionals are often put into positions where they might come across child abuse. A recent article published in Pediatrics discusses how to evaluated suspected child abuse, what can be commonly missed, and what a healthcare professional's role is. Find the article here: Another article published a couple months after, reports on the findings of a study done to identify what elements should be required in a CAP evaluation: Read these articles to expand your knowledge, and comment here to share thoughts and other resources.
06/22/2015 • 
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In her talk, Dr. Burke Harris provides the anecdote "If 100 kids are drinking water from the same well and 98 of them develop diarrhea, you can either write prescription after prescription for antibiotics, or you can go over to the well and as 'What is in this water?'" The ACE study was developed to identify in adults past childhood trauma and correlate the responses with health problems. In the Dig Deeper section, a link is provided to that questionnaire. What updated questions do you think would be good to add to the questionnaire to help identify other types of trauma or make it more applicable to a broader range of people?
06/22/2015 • 
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ACEs - even high scores - are about probabilities, not certainties. Youth show tremendous capacities to move beyond contexts of adversities to develop and locate themselves in contexts of resilience. Personal factors, like perseverance, investing in signature strengths, good self-care and social connections, engaging in community organizations, and recognizing that resilience is a daily, active practice within communities of resilience. How do you define resilience? What are among the best approaches to transform adversity to post-traumatic growth?
06/22/2015 • 
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