When it comes to trauma, most people think of soldiers and war–but trauma is much more common than that. The causes of trauma are vast, yet we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on the full effects they have on us and our children.
In a recent TED talk, Nadine Burke Harris took to the stage to explain why childhood trauma can have such a dramatic effect on our lives.
The early years of life are the most transformatory. Our brains, bodies, values, and personalities develop during this period of time–but this also makes us incredibly exposed and vulnerable.
Nadine Burke Harris explains how causes of trauma impact DNA
“Early adversity drastically affects health across a lifetime.” -Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Nadine Burke Harris is a pediatrician and the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness, an institution that focuses on not just physical health, but mental health. Their goal is to prevent, screen, and heal the impacts of toxic stress.
At her institution, each child is screened at physicals using the ACE point system, which we’ll get into a bit later.
When a child’s result is positive, they’re referred to a multidisciplinary team that specializes in finding the causes of trauma and treating them. Along with this, parents are educated on the effects of trauma and how to spot red flags.
Compelling research showing that early trauma leads to difficulty throughout life is what inspired the creation of the Center for Youth Wellness. In high doses, trauma impacts brain development, the immune system, hormones, and even how our DNA is read and transcribed.
If left untreated, childhood trauma can lead to triple the risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer–and potentially shortens your life expectancy by 20 years.
Dr. Burke Harris describes trauma as something that “literally gets under our skin and changes our physiology.” The causes of trauma include everything from natural disasters to abuse to neglect to being raised by an alcoholic.
The research that changed the game
The research that changed her life was the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study by Dr. Vince Felitti at Kaiser and Dr. Bob Anda at the CDC. This study asked 17,500 adults about their exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). Of the participants, around 70 percent were caucasian and 70 percent were college-educated.
For each ACE, they would get a point on their ACE score. Then they correlated the scores to health outcomes and discovered that the higher the ACE score, the lower the heath.
The shocking thing? ACEs weren’t rare–67 percent had at least one ACE, while 12.6 percent (1 in 8) had four or more. That’s the furthest thing from rare; that’s common.
So, after reviewing this study, she decided to create an institution that took trauma into account in order to stop its effects from tainting children’s adulthoods.
While there are many causes of trauma, we’ve developed efficient and effective ways of treating it–the issue is getting people to realize how widespread this problem is.
If you believe your daughter is struggling with trauma or other mental health issues, it’s critical to reach out to a professional for guidance.
Solstice East is here to help your daughter
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18. We understand the specific needs of girls, which is why our program is centered solely on them. Our students often grapple with depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, trauma, back to school anxiety, ADHD, and other emotional or behavioral problems when they come to us.
We have a strong emphasis on family therapy, nutrition, physical fitness. We also offer a supportive staff, cutting-edge academics, addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services. At Solstice, we help set the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve.
For more information about how we can help at Solstice East, please contact us at 828-484-9946.