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‘Resilience’ film screening a call to action on childhood trauma

*We had permission to cross-post this article.

kristen hendrickson 2018

By: Kristen Hendrickson, master's student in the UNC School of Media and Journalism
Date cross-posted: October 29, 2018

The documentary film, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” has had many screenings across the United States since being released in 2016. Its recent showing at the Carolina Theatre and the panel discussion that followed revealed the actions already taking place in Durham, NC in response to the issues discussed in the film.

Watching a film on childhood trauma might not seem like it would be an uplifting experience.

For the documentary “Resilience,” it is. It not only shows the impact that trauma can have on a person, but really focuses on what can be done about it.

Sharon Hirsch, who is President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, helped to make a screening of the film possible for the Durham Rotary Club on the evening of Tuesday, October 23 at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.

The work of Prevent Child Abuse NC “focuses on trying to foster safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children,” stated Hirsch. The film also fits with the Durham Rotary Club’s mission, of which Hirsch is a member.

IMG 6986 e1540583183623The Carolina Theatre in Durham welcomed audiences to watch “Resilience.” / Photo by Kristen Hendrickson

“The Rotary has a real commitment to service and a commitment to strengthening children and families,” Hirsch noted.

She also explained that while the film has been shown previously to policy makers and human services professionals in Durham, this screening was intended to engage a business audience, which is one that previously has not been targeted.

“We’re really excited to share this with the business community, because we know that if they can be paying attention to this among their employees, and fostering family-friendly workplace policies…they’re not only growing a great future workforce, the current workforce will be less stressed and more productive,” remarked Hirsch.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study

The film’s concepts are based on the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, published in 1998, which is one of the largest studies on childhood abuse and neglect and the impact on health.

This study used a measurement of ten adverse childhood experiences, such as living with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated, or witnessing violence in the household.

Results showed that ACEs have a direct impact on an individual’s long-term health, including conditions like depression, heart disease and obesity. It also demonstrated the serious effects that a high ACE score could have on a person’s future behavior, like alcohol abuse and propensity for smoking.

acesEffects of adverse childhood experiences extend into health, behaviors and life outcomes / Centers for Disease Control Image

Interventions for ACEs

“Resilience” is uplifting. Adverse childhood experiences are portrayed in a sensitive way, and the real focus is on the power of intervention, like one pediatrician’s work with her patients and a school teacher’s efforts in her classroom.

At the end of the movie, a panel of five experts came up on stage. Each panelist briefly described how ACE screenings and ACE-related interventions are being used in Durham.

Hirsch moderated the panel, which included:

  • Rachel Galanter – Exchange Club Family Center
  • Leila Keen – Center for Child and Family Health
  • Rebecca Newton – Online Child Safety Expert
  • Ellen Reckhow – County Commissioner
  • David Reese – East Durham Children’s Initiative

If you have a high ACE, Rachel Galanter explained that “we know how to decrease the risk of long term health problems,” and that experts have the tools to help mental and physical consequences.

“We need to let parents know the benefits of knowing a child’s ACE score and the resources available to them so they can build up the protective factors in that child’s life,” stressed Galanter.

The impact of one caring adult

One powerful message that the film drove home is the impact that the presence of one, caring and stable adult can have on a child.

One member of the audience, Nan, whose last name is omitted here for privacy, said that this message resonated with her. Nan said that she is in school to become a substance abuse counselor and has been around abuse, personally and professionally, for many years.

“I’ve always seen trauma,” related Nan. However, she understands that when one person reaches out to help someone else experiencing trauma, that it can make a difference.

She recalled a school principal who helped her feel safe during a tough time of her life, and how his caring voice stayed with her during future times of struggle.

“You never know how you’re going to help someone,” said Nan.

What’s next in Durham

Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow described several initiatives to address these issues, including piloting ACE screenings in Durham clinics. She said these screenings could be expanded, and noted a need for a Community Resilience Plan which could include strategies and training community-wide.

She reported that one public school in Durham, Forest View Elementary, has implemented practices suggested in the film, and that since then, referrals to the office have gone down 60 percent.

Galanter said that with the growing community awareness of these issues, she hopes that multiple communities in Durham will “invest in prevention and supporting the resources to build up protective factors.”

Galanter noted several protective factors that could help children, including:

  • Providing concrete support for families;
  • Helping individuals learn how to come back from a crisis;
  • Helping parents understand their child’s development and how to respond;
  • Developing social and emotional skills at home and at school;
  • Social support networks for adults who care for children.
  • While the interventions, professional resources and programs in Durham are developing, there are ways that anyone can help, which is one theme the film captured.

Hirsch also emphasized this.

“It’s really a call to action for any of us. No matter what role we’re in, there’s something we can do.”

Click here to view the original article. 


Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

A chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America

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