Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)   

Bernadette Joy Graham,
Licensed Mental Health Therapist

A Mental Health Moment

By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPCC, CCHtLicensed Mental Health Therapist
The Truth Contributor

Happy New Year!  As we are just a few days into a new year, most of us have had the opportunity to reflect on our last year.  We all fall into one of two categories or a little of both.  Last year was either a time well spent or a time well wasted.  The stress of 2022 has ended and we look forward to 2023 in which I do hope will be a year of time well spent.

I would like to start the year off with an informational piece on a topic called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs.  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood and before the age of 18.  The first ACE study was conducted in 1995 by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  With just 17,0000 adults, the study was conducted by asking questions about their childhood that included abuse (physical, sexual and emotional), neglect, parental separation, substance abuse, violence, incarceration and mental illness.

The study raised some red flags when two-thirds of the study participants noted significant adverse factors.  Beyond the results of the study participants, researchers found links between ACE and higher than usual negative health and behavioral outcomes affecting adults later in life.  Heart disease, diabetes, and premature death were at the top of those outcomes

Today, with much more research completed, the Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire is given to adults in medical facilities and mental health offices.  While there are various versions such as the number of questions, one can very quickly identify an at-risk adult for current or future negative health outcomes.  The questions require only yes or no answers.

The questionnaire gives the opportunity to open up dialogue about an individual’s past between patient and provider.  Not every patient chooses to explore his childhood experiences as it can be quite traumatic and possibly cause more damage such as a patient relapsing.  The questionnaire also saves time in behavioral health due to the amount of time it can take to get a patient to begin to open up about his childhood.  Even if the patient chooses not to explore the past right now, at least it is identified and acknowledged and can possibly explain present health problems.

Our childhood is a most important factor in one’s future outcome.  Children depend on caregivers to offer them a chance at a positive and healthy adulthood and when that is not the case, time is of the essence.  So many children are robbed of their childhood due to abuse, neglect, violence, broken homes and mentally ill caregivers gone untreated.

Solutions factors are prevention, reporting, and the courage to get treatment.  Take a mental health moment wherever you are in your life.  Seek appropriate treatment with the appropriate age of care.  While many have come to terms with losing their childhood, they don’t have to lose their health as they grow older with sickness and premature death.

If someone is ill equipped to care properly for a child due to her own unresolved issues….resolve the issues so those issues are not killing or damaging future generations.  This is 2023 and mental health is no longer a mystery nor does it lack in prevalence.

All those folks in this day and age who believe mental health is not health or helpful, should start digging their own graves now for themselves and let others make their own choice.

Bernadette Graham is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor,  Accepting new clients ages 13 and older.

Contact 419 409 4929.