Childhood Trauma is a Public Health Crisis

According to recent sociological, psychological, and physical health studies, public health officials are beginning to identify the short-term and long-term effects of childhood trauma and traumic experiences can be as serious as the outbreak of a disease, such as influenza or Hepatitis A. In fact, the scientific and sociological evidence is so overwhelming, that public health officials are considering constructing awareness campaigns and mass educational communication to help alert the public about the negative health effects of childhood traumatic experiences–as well as understand what a traumatic event is, the effects on the brain, nervous system, and entire body, as well as what to do if someone suffers from a traumatic event

There are multiple longitudinal research studies which illustrate that childhood traumatic experiences directly correlate with increased mental illness, addiction issues, and physical health problems in adulthood. Recently, a study was conducted in western North Carolina, entitled “The Great Smoky Mountains Study.” It was a longitudinal study that followed the children over a 22-year period. Out of the 1,420 children observed, 31% had experienced one traumatic event, 22.5% had experienced two traumatic events, and 14.8% had experienced three or more traumatic events. The traumatic events recorded included life-threatening injuries, sexual and/or physical abuse, or witnessing or hearing about a loved one’s own traumatic experience, and more.

The results of the study established that those with histories of trauma, were 1.5 times more likely to have psychiatric problems as well as family instability and dysfunction in adulthood. Adding to that, they were also 1.3 times more likely to be poor as adults (low socioeconomic status) than those who did not experience trauma in their childhood. In addition, they were also 1.2 times more likely to develop depression or a substance use disorder. The participants who had experienced childhood trauma were also more likely to participate in risky behaviors, violent relationships, have problems making friends, to experience physical health problems, and to struggle financially. In addition, the more traumatic events they experienced as a child, the more likely they were to have long-term problems (such as those listed above) throughout adulthood.

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is a bill that just passed recently that is a step in the right direction. This act includes addressing the opioid overuse and addiction epidemic and recognizes the link between childhood trauma and substance use. Although this is a great start, there is plenty more to be done. For instance, we need to not only educate the general population and parents about how to help those who have experienced a traumatic event (early intervention is a key component to reducing long-term issues) education, there is a need for evidence-based trauma therapies to be taught and proliferated among doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Furthermore, daycares and schools across the country need trauma-informed education as well as techniques that they can apply to children, or at least the education to make an appropriate referral. Unfortunately, most of the evidence resulting from the research on trauma and childhood-trauma was not completed before 2010. Therefore, there were many professionals who received their higher education before such studies were considered definitive and as a results there are clinicians, counselors, doctors, nurses, schools and whole systems of medicine and social services in our community right now who do not recognize the effects of trauma, nor do they have the training or tools to treat it effectively.

At Health for Life Grand Rapids, we are proud to provide Trauma-Informed Counseling together with Trauma-Specific Interventions to the Grand Rapids, MI community, through our new treatment wing: The Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of West Michigan. To learn more, call 616-200-4433 or schedule a visit with one of our trauma-informed clinicians today.

References:

Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis? National Public Radio.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/11/09/666143092/should-childhood-trauma-be-tr eated-as-a-public-health-crisis Adverse

Childhood Experiences (ACEs) https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html *

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