ACE’s and Toxic Stress

Chasity Docteur
Feb 4 · 3 min read

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Adverse Childhood Experiences can be defined as “potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0–17 years). The traumatic events include: experiencing violence or abuse, witnessing violence in the home or community, having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with: substance misuse, mental health problems, instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison.” It is said that “ACE’s are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACE’s can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. However, ACE’s can be prevented.” According to the Center on the Developing Child, Toxic Stress Response “can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity — such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship — without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.” Now that you have some background knowledge, I want to simply point out that it can be PREVENTED. If I had one wish it would be to implement mandatory mental health classes in schools K-12, college campuses and the workplace along with trauma screening in every state. Before you question, how? Let me tell you that New York has already mandated mental health education in public schools. So why stop there? Virginia and New York are on the path to bringing behavioral health awareness and prevention. This law will ensure that children will learn about mental health so that they can effectively recognize signs and seek treatment earlier. The curriculum also addresses the negative stigma associated with mental illness. Adverse Childhood Experiences and Toxic Stress can be considered a Public Health crisis. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s first-ever surgeon general prepares to put California’s ACE’s screening process in motion. The state is also setting aside $45 million this year to reimburse Medicaid providers in the state for trauma screenings of adults and children. If New York and Virginia can mandate mental health education, why can’t it be put in motion all around the world? If California is being approved for ACE’s and trauma screening, why can’t every state? The higher your ACE score, the more susceptible you are to health problems. If children are educated about mental health, and screened for ACE’s and trauma, we could help children become healthier adults. We will be able to heal those who are hurting and break generational curses. With a snap of a finger, I would implement these changes to heal and educate not only our children but adults who have suffered and are currently suffering.

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Chasity Docteur
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