Helping youth helps build resilient communities

CINCINNATI — Ohio’s major urban areas have communities where people are just trying to get by. And getting by these days is made more difficult by the lingering effects of trauma. 

What You Need To Know

  • Adverse childhood experiences are stress inducing and developmental altering events
  • Statistical analysis shows certain ACEs correlate with lower reports of good health among Ohio adults.
  • Healthy relationships are key in building resilience to ACEs
  • The host hopes to destigmatize being weird as a form of self-expression

Trauma comes in many forms, but researchers have identified a list of adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, that are especially critical. These ACES are negative events that, if too severe, raise a child’s stress levels. 

The increased stress can have lasting effects on physical, social and emotional development.  

Examples of ACES range from a parents’ divorce to parental incarceration, emotional neglect or physical abuse. 

ACES effects can be so pervasive that Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine made countering childhood trauma a funding priority in his first budget as governor. In a 2019 interview with Spectrum News 1, DeWine referenced the budget spending focus on kids. 

“You know a lot emphasis, no surprise, on children,” DeWine said. “We have the opportunity to really change kids’ lives. We’ve got kids who are growing up in difficult circumstances many times through absolutely no fault of their own.”   

And those circumstances carry risks when the kids become adults. Cincinnati community member Yolanda Johnson, who works to help youth, explained.

“If you don’t help this generation, and guide them, we’ll have a generation that grows up to be adults with no guidance, who will be lost, raising another generation that will go the same way,” Johnson said.

And data analysis shows ACES have longer term health effects too. 

University of Cincinnati journalism and policy researchers examined data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, which asked thousands of Ohioans about their medical status and prior experience with trauma, like ACEs. The researchers found three ACEs effects increase reports of fair or poor health among Ohio adults. 

Specifically, whether a parent spent time in prison, suffered mental illness or drank too much all correlate with lower reported general health.

But MetroHealth child psychologist Dr. Lisa Ramirez said there’s a way to overcome ACEs effects.

“The research shows that those meaningful relationships that are supportive, and nurturing, and responsive are the number one protective factor,” Ramirez said. 

The relationships offer positive experiences that trump the negative ones, and are key in building trauma resilience. 

And UCHealth pediatrics professor and ACEs researcher Dr. Robert Shapiro said policy is pivotal.

“Policy can go a long way towards building communities that support our youth,” Shapiro said. “Kids need to grow up in a world where they feel that there is hope, where there’s a chance for them to succeed.”

The Spectrum series about building resilient communities during the next couple weeks will bring stories of building resilience around Ohio — highlighting the efforts to combat the toxic effects stress can have on kids and communities.

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