Resiliency & ACEs

Recently, Exchange Family Center’s Executive Director Rachel Galanter participated in a panel discussion about the importance of someone’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in relation to toxic stress as a child and long-term life outcomes.

The panel discussion follows the showing of Resilience, a documentary showing the impacts of negative childhood events and the biology of stress. Kristen Hendrickson, friend and supporter of the Exchange Family Center and an UNC student, writes an engrossing article on the documentary, its uplifting (yet informative) message and Durham’s next steps in making individuals, families and children more resilient.

Here is some of the discussion that took place.

Kristen: “It seems that identifying one's ACE score could trigger some difficult feelings. Have you noticed that being an issue? Or, could there be an issue with parents not wanting their kids to be screened at school?

Rachel: “Although for some people remembering those negative experiences can trigger feelings of sadness or helplessness, I think for many people, understanding that the difficulties they have had in their lives is partly due to things that happened to them instead of something wrong with them is a relief.” 

“Parents should always know for any screening what is going to happen with the information. The great thing about screening for ACES is that we know how to decrease the risk of long term health problems; we have the tools to buffer children from toxic stress.” 

“We need to let parents know the benefits of knowing a child’s ACE score and the resources available to them so they can build up the protective factors in that child’s life.”

Kristen: “Are there some specific things that you've noticed have happened as a result of someone or a community watching this film? What would you hope could happen next in our community?”

Rachel: “I think that when people see the film, many people are surprised how common ACEs are and the long term impact they have on our physical health. For some, the fact that this happens regardless of people’s socioeconomic and racial background feels unifying. For others, they see the added toxic stress caused by poverty and racial inequity and they feel compelled to ensure that those issues don’t get left out of the conversation. 

“I hope that the growing community awareness about how all toxic stress has a negative impact on brain development and adult physical and mental health creates a push from multiple communities in Durham to invest in prevention and supporting the resources to build up protective factors: concrete support for families, helping children and adults develop the capacity to come back from crises, helping parents understand their children’s development and how to be responsive, developing children’s social and emotional skills at home and at school, and social support networks for the caring adults children rely on.”

As part of a national effort to educate communities on the effects of toxic stress experienced children on long-term life outcome an adulthood, Durham is hosting several showings of Resilience throughout the county.

For more information on times and locations, take a look at our calendar of events.