I just finished watching a TED talk on adverse childhood trauma by pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris. To say that this was an eye-opening and honest discussion of the impact of domestic violence, physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or substance abuse or mental illness of a parent on the overall physical and emotional well-being of children would be an understatement. These experiences change our health prognosis over our lifetimes, increasing our likelihood of heart disease and cancer, and, often times, shortening our lifespans.
Harris is leading the charge in the way medical professionals examine children, looking at all of the factors holistically, which, in a society that doles out ADHD diagnoses in record numbers and treats the symptom (with heavy medications) instead of the problem, is quite the challenge.
'Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect, and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer.'
I am learning so much on my journey, and I feel compelled to pass along all of the things I'm discovering. This issue goes far beyond just me and my personal trauma. There is an epidemic in our society. We are neglecting our children. We are turning our heads away from their pain and the ugliness of the realities that many of them face at home. The scope of this crisis is overwhelming. I don't have the answers. But I think it starts with education. With open, honest discussions with our educators and healthcare professionals. With open, honest discussions with ourselves and our families.
If you can spare fifteen minutes of your time, I highly recommend watching the TED talk. You or someone you know and love is impacted by this epidemic.
To learn more about the ACE Study which Harris references, 'one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being,' please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
Please also consider donating to the National Children's Alliance, 'a children’s advocacy center in which law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy professionals work together to investigate abuse, help children heal from abuse, and hold offenders accountable.'