Thirteen faith leaders, behavioral health providers, and community leaders gathered on August 12 in City Heights for an introduction to the science and practice of adverse childhood experiences, and to hear about an upcoming series of workshops about mental health services in their communities.
The series, which is led by Pastor Jesus Sandoval, chair of the Faith Based Academy, intends to bring together 25 Hispanic and 25 African American ministries with staff from San Diego County's Health, Human Services Agency. The series is supported by Urban League of San Diego County, which created The Faith Based Academy. The meetings are scheduled on Friday’s between 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm at Price Charities, 4305 University Avenue, San Diego, Suite 610, 92105. Light dinner provided.
Guest Speaker, Dana Brown, Southern CA Regional Community Facilitator, ACEs Connection presented “Healing our Communities through Trauma Informed Ministries”. (powerpoint attached)
I was invited to give a 30-minute presentation about the science of adverse childhood experiences. When I asked how many in the room knew about the CDC-Kaiser Permanent Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), most said they had not heard about it.
The slide in my presentation that inspired the most discussion was the brain scan.
One man said: “That was my brain, the one on the right in the image.”
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) shows that childhood trauma is linked to the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. The research, led by Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda measured 10 types of childhood adversity that occurred before the age of 18.
They are physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member who has been incarcerated, is abusing alcohol or drugs, or is depressed or has a mental illness; witnessing a mother being abused; and losing a parent to divorce or separation. Of course there are many other types of childhood adversity – bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, being homeless, witnessing a sibling being abuse, experiencing a severe illness or accident – but this study focused just on these 10.
The higher a person’s ACE score, the greater the risk of chronic disease and mental illness. For example, compared with someone who has an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 or more is twice as likely to have heart disease, seven times more likely to be alcoholic and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide. Of the 17,000 mostly white, college-educated people with jobs and great health care who participated in the study, 64 percent had an ACE score of 1 or more; 40 percent had 2 or more and 12 percent had an ACE score of 4 or more (i.e., four out of the 10 different types of adversity).
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to most of our major chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health issues.
This happens because ACEs cause an overload of toxic stress, which damage the function and structure of children’s developing brains, and also damage the body’s organ systems. The effects of toxic stress caused by ACEs can be passed from generation to generation. Resilience research shows that our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal. We know the resilience factors that help individuals become and stay healthy: exercise, enough sleep, safe relationships, a safe place to live, financial health, good nutrition, and asking for help. But we’re just learning about how to create healthy families, and self-healing organizations, systems and communities.
Some of the examples I shared from other communities of practice where faith based organizations are integrating ACEs science are included in the following stories:
When I showed the attendees how many states have done their own ACE surveys, I encouraged them to have their organizations to learn about ACEs science and integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices.
After the presentation, Kat Katsanis-Semel, M.A., LGBTQ Community Outreach Specialist, Mental Health America of San Diego County said, “The importance of trauma informed care, particularly within the context of faith-based communities, cannot be underrated. As faith-based leaders learn more about the science and research of adverse childhood experiences in becoming trauma-informed and this paradigm shift is integrated into their ministries, we could very well witness a much needed, compassion-based revolution. Rather than seeking to penalize those who have made mistakes, trauma-informed care seeks to understand individuals and provide client-centered, effective and results-oriented treatments. I’m excited to witness that which will next unfold.”