Good health is determined by many factors. Eating and exercise get a lot of attention, and for good reason. But, our life experiences – especially experiences during childhood when our brains and bodies are rapidly developing – play a huge role in just how healthy we become later in life. And when children experience negative or traumatic situations, it can have lasting effects.
These events are called “ACEs,” which stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Examples of ACEs include abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. They can be caused by stressful situations such as domestic violence, families going through divorce, as well as traumatic experiences such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
What we’ve learned
Studies have shown that when children experience traumatic events, their health is significantly impacted. In fact, the long-term health affects of experiencing a traumatic situation can actually increase the likelihood of developing chronic diseases and even increase the risk of developing some cancers.
The impact is serious because traumatic experiences can cause changes in the part of a child’s brain that controls emotion and behavioral regulation. For example, when a child’s behavior changes drastically – such as extreme tantrums, poor sleeping or difficulty learning – it may be an indication of changes in their brain’s regulatory center. And this doesn’t just impact children. Parents who have experienced traumatic experiences during childhood may have a harder time regulating their own behaviors when dealing with their children.
ACEs in Central Minnesota
ACEs are serious and more common than you might think. In some cases, the number of Central Minnesotans who have had ACEs is higher than national averages. That’s why Feeling Good MN is working to raise awareness through education and connect people to helpful resources in an effort to reduce ACEs and ultimately improve health.
Oftentimes people are not comfortable talking about ACEs. There are many reasons why – sometimes it’s stigma or shame associated with it. In some cases with children, they may not be in a position where they’re able to speak up. However, there are resources available to help those in need. And the right kind of help can make all the difference in the world. So if you know a loved one who may be affected by ACEs, Minnesota Mental Health can connect you to appropriate resources in Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties.
Below are additional resources available:
- Child advocacy center: https://www.centracare.com/services/child-advocacy-center/for-referral-sources/
- Changing Minds: Childhood Trauma https://changingmindsnow.org/activate
- The Science of neglect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=72&v=bF3j5UVCSCA
- Sesame Street: Helping Children Thrive Through Challenges: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RUkqyeTcec
- Bounce Back (resiliency): www.bouncebackproject.org
- Child Resilience Center: www.childhoodresilience.org
- Helping Traumatized Children Learn: www.traumasensitiveschools.org
- Peacemaker Resources: https://www.peacemakerresources.org/
Working together to address ACEs
In Central Minnesota, several organizations are working to address the impact of ACEs. Through a collaborative effort, these organizations continue to identify the tools and resources needed to address and prevent ACEs from having devastating effects on our communities. The organizations below are partnering on this important work:
- CentraCare Health
- Stearns County
- Benton County
- Lion Youth and Community Services
- Central MN Mental Health
- Hands Across the World
- PROMISE neighborhood
- Stearns County Attorney’s Office
- St Cloud State University
- Stearns County Probation
- Waite Park Police Department
- St Cloud Police Department
- United Way