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After watching Oprah Winfrey’s report on 60 Minutes about Treating Childhood Trauma, I began seeking out more learning opportunities on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a Trauma Informed Care Approach. I wanted to share with you what I have learned.

Trauma is defined as a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident or an experience that produces psychological injury or pain. Trauma occurs when an individual, family, or community experiences an event or series of events that are harmful, and it affects functioning and well-being. Traumatic events can include abuse, neglect, bullying, terrorism, and war. Trauma does not discriminate. An important point is that what may be traumatic for one person may not affect another person in the same way. For example, being in a car accident may become a traumatic event for one person, and another person may not appear to be affected by it at all.

As a friend, family, or concerned community member, you can help someone who has experienced a trauma by:

  • Asking  “What happened” and “How can how I help?”
  • Allowing the person to express their emotions. Some emotions may be anger, numbness and fear.  There is no one way that individuals express themselves after experiencing a trauma.
  • Listening to someone’s story and showing empathy and concern.
  • Offering practical support.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that happen to children and adolescents, and they are categorized in this infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

infographicResearch has shown that infants, children, and adolescents with ACEs are more likely to experience mental health, physical health, and behavioral health problems.

THERE IS HOPE!  Even if you, a loved one or your community has experienced a traumatic event, it does not mean that all is lost. There are many protective factors that can help to overcome the experience of trauma and build resilience at individual, relational, and community levels. Protective factors will always promote growth, independence, and healing for an individual.

Some protective factors are:

  • Caring adults outside family who can serve as role models or mentors
  • Communities that support parents and take responsibility for preventing abuse
  • Supportive family environment
  • Adequate housing
  • Access to health care and social services

As you live each day, remember that each of us has the chance to make a difference to another person. Trauma can be experienced by anyone. When we begin to recognize the humanity of each person, to not believe that we already know their story based simply on looks or rumor, and to come together as a community of broken people, each person and each community will become stronger.

 

WRITTEN BY: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

REVIEWED BY: Jenny Lobb,  Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension

RESOURCES:

Brown, Asa Don. Protective and Risk Factors Associated With Trauma: The process of recovery and resiliency. Psychology Today, 2017.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/towards-recovery/201704/protective-and-risk-factors-associated-trauma

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. What Are Adverse Childhood Experiences? https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/collections/aces.html

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Trauma. https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Types of Trauma and Violence. https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence/types

Victoria State Government Health and Human Services. Trauma – helping family or friends. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/trauma-helping-family-or-friends

Winfrey, Oprah. 60 Minutes News Program. March 11, 2018. Treating Childhood Trauma. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oprah-winfrey-treating-childhood-trauma/

Youth.gov. Risk & Protective Factors. https://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health/risk-and-protective-factors-youth 

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