If I had a wish for a Post Covid-19 world
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
There have been many studies into how Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) create trauma for children which alters the structure of the brain. This results in increased risk of physical, mental and social problems. The higher the occurrence of ACES the greater the risk of cancers, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, liver disease, asthma. They also cause mental health problems such as anxiety, depression conduct disorder etc. and ultimately can lead to an increase suicide attempts from 1.1% to 35% (7+ ACES).
Socially it increases homelessness, drug use, alcohol addiction, domestic violence and other forms of abuse such as physical, emotional and sexual. ACES result in lower educational success which leads to economic uncertainty or failure.
ACES add pressure to vital services such as NHS, Education, Social Services, Justice System - 84% of prisoners have at least 1 ACE compared to 23% of the general population. Youth justice has similar figures.
There are over 72,000 children in care and by definition they have all suffered ACES, usually multiple ACES. They make up just 1% of the child population, yet they are ten times more likely to go to prison than university.
Currently there is no statutory training for adults who work with ACES and recent research study found that in one primary school in the North of England where ten members of staff were interviewed as part of a research project on ACES not one had heard of the term, let alone had training. Between the ten members of staff there were over 100 years of teaching or school experience and they collectively had taught over 5,000 children.
There have been many articles published, books written and speeches made about how to work with children who have suffered trauma. From around the world, eminent doctors, psychologists, scientists such as Dr Bruce Perry, Dr Bessel Van de Kolk, Professor Michael Merzenich, Dr Nadine Burke-Harris, Professor Mark Bellis and former Children’s commissioner Sir AL Ainsly-Green have all spoken about how to reverse the neurological damages caused by ACES. But it isn’t happening nearly enough.
All adults who work with any children, but especially with identified vulnerable children should receive training in how to support children with a high level of abuse and ACES to reduce the impact they will have if left untreated.
Economically, studies have shown that early intervention in children's mental health can return a six-fold saving on the public purse (Place2Be) Further studies (Wave Trust) has shown that 40% of council spending is as a direct result of ACES
There is a small but growing movement in being 'ACE-aware' and 'trauma-informed' but whilst this movement is growing too many of our children are heading towards physical and mental ill-health, drug use, crime, poverty , prison and ultimately early death and suicides.
If left untreated, ACES are trans- generational. Investment in training and resources for parents, foster carers, social workers, teachers, counsellors and anyone else in the position to work directly with children can improve their life chances and the life chances of the generation which follow them.