IN THE CASE OF A LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.
More than two decades ago, two respected researchers, clinical physician Dr. Vincent Felitti and CDC epidemiologist Robert Anda, published the game-changing Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs.) It revealed a troubling but irrefutable phenomenon: the more traumatic experiences the respondents had as children (such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect), the more likely they were to develop health problems later in life—problems such as cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. To complicate matters, there was also a troubling correlation between adverse childhood experiences and prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse, unprotected sex, and poor diet. Combined, the results of the study painted a staggering portrait of the price our children are paying for growing up in unsafe environments, all the while adding fuel to the fire of some of society’s greatest challenges.
"What's predictable is preventable."
However, this very same study contains the seed of HOPE: all of the above-mentioned risk factors—behavioral as well as physiological—can be offset by the presence of one dependable and caring adult. It doesn’t need to be the mother or the father. It doesn’t even need to be a close or distant relative. More often than not, that stable, caring adult is a teacher.
Examining the emerging science around Toxic Stress and how it negatively alters the brains and bodies of children if left untreated.
"The child may not remember, but the body remembers."
Researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood. As the new documentary Resilience reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. While the broader impacts of poverty worsen the risk, no segment of society is immune. Resilience, however, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress—and the dark legacy of a childhood that no child would choose.
Captures the pain, the danger and the hopes of struggling teens–and the teachers armed with new science who are changing their lives for the better.
“Stressed brains can’t learn.”
The film follows a year in the life of an alternative high school that has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students, becoming a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families.
That was the nugget of neuroscience that Jim Sporleder, principal of a high school riddled with violence, drugs and truancy, took away from an educational conference in 2010. Three years later, the number of fights at Lincoln Alternative High School had gone down by 75% and the graduation rate had increased five-fold. Paper Tigers is the story of how one school made such dramatic progress.
Following six students over the course of a school year, we see Lincoln’s staff try a new approach to discipline: one based on understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension. Using a combination of vérité and revealing diary cam footage, Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest developmental science is showing: that just one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life.
WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
"Resilience is about overcoming adversity. It's about how you think and how you view the world. When something bad happens to you, do you see it as a catastrophe? Or do you see it as an opporunity? Are you able to tell the difference between something that's a real tiger versus something that just feels like a tiger.
Because stress is designed into our bodies so that we can deal with the tiger that's going to attack us. Right? And the key is that you have to be able to tell the difference between something that could really chew your face off, or just feels like it might.
The resilience mindset can tell the difference between something real and something that only worries you.
Unconditional love...it gives human beings the security that allows them to move forward and to take chances. That's the bottom line of being able to handle almost anything.
'I am loved, I am valued, and people know who I am inside.' That allows people to thrive through good and bad times and that's what resilience is." - 'Resilience: The Biology of Stress and Science of Hope'
How communities are implementing a trauma-informed, resilience-building practices based on ACEs research:
- Medical: Pediatricians (here’s an update on the Children’s Clinic) and public health clinics are screening patients for ACEs. Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, MacArthur genius award winner, recommends physicians adding ACE screening to measurement of other vital signs, such as blood pressure.
- Education: Many schools – including schools in San Francisco, CA, Spokane, WA, San Diego, CA, and Walla Walla, WA — have integrated trauma-informed practices into classrooms, playgrounds and school policies.
- Early Childhood: Head Start (early childhood education program) in Kansas City has integrated trauma-informed practices in a program called Head Start Trauma Smart. (NYTimes article about the program.) Home-based early childhood intervention, such as Child First. (NYTimes article about the program.)
- Public Safety: Police departments and courts have integrated trauma-informed approaches.
- Community Resources: Homeless shelters and the faith-based community are integrating practices based on ACEs research.
- Local Government: Cities and states are integrating ACE-, trauma-informed practices and resilience-building practices.
The Speedy Foundation believes that topics of trauma, toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, and resiliency are relevant to the conversation surrounding suicide prevention and mental health advocacy. Please reach out with additional topics and resources that you've found beneficial or with feedback on these issues: firstname.lastname@example.org.