October 10, 2014
“Trauma” is becoming a buzzword in the child welfare, mental health, and even medical communities. As the dissemination of the results of numerous recent studies on the subject continues, nonprofit organizations and governments are developing ways to incorporate trauma-informed practices in their work.
Reviewing recent studies, including MRI scans showing direct impact of early life trauma on brain structure and function, it has become apparent that such trauma impacts individuals and families in fundamental ways. Early life trauma is literally programmed into the brains and bodies of traumatized individuals during fetal life and the earliest years, and thereafter has been shown to affect their behaviors and experiences in negative ways, including, among other things, by leading or contributing to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), by leading to self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse or engagement in high-risk relationships, and even by leading to physical and mental health issues and premature cell deterioration and aging in part through its effect on telomeres at the ends of chromosomes.
The word about these issues and their significance is finally spreading, facilitated in large part by the revolutionary ACE study (the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study out of Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and led by Vincent Felliti and Robert Anda), which has shown that adverse childhood experiences lead to numerous adverse adult experiences and that the effect is proportional.
In one current initiative, Georgetown University has teamed with JBS International to create a web-based tool to support leaders and decision makers in government and private organizations in becoming more “trauma-informed” in serving their populations. I recommend taking a look at this important web-based resource: National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health, Georgetown University Center for Child and and Human Development.