Childhood trauma conference planned
The extent of childhood trauma on the island is to be revealed next week at a special conference.
Results of a survey on the problem will be announced at a conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences and it is expected the information will be used to help shape social and health policy.
Stephanie Guthman, Family Centre’s director of specialised training and assessment, said: “Adverse childhood experiences are extremely stressful events that can happen to a child growing up.
“Some experiences are so stressful that they can even alter brain development as well as the immune system and increase the risk of lifelong health and social problems into later adulthood. These experiences include abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.”
She said a study of more than 17,000 people in San Diego, California, showed that a higher number of adverse childhood experiences, known as Aces, meant a bigger chance of social or health problems later in life, including increased risk of cancer and heart attacks, alcoholism and premature death.
Dr Guthman added: “The great news is that Aces don’t define you, Aces are not your destiny and Aces are preventable.”
Family Centre and the Bermuda Health Council launched a survey earlier this year as the organisations aimed to learn more about the impact of childhood trauma.
Dr Guthman said that people can find out their Ace score online, which can help people learn how best to respond to their problems. She added that an accurate Ace score for the country would help services develop the best prevention and treatment programmes.
The two-day event, the second of its kind, will be held on June 13 and 14.
The first day will begin with a focus on Understanding and Addressing Racial Trauma.
Martha Dismont, Family Centre executive director, thanked the charity’s partners Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda and the Inter Agency Committee for Children and Families, for their help in staging the event.
She said the conference followed what was “pretty much an introduction” to the subject last year, where attendees “walked away saying, ‘we’ve got some work to do Bermuda’.”
Dr Guthman said: “A lot of the feedback that we received from the first conference was that people wanted to know more about racial trauma, so that’s why we’re really dedicating one day to racial trauma.”
Specialists will talk about the importance of countrywide Ace scores at the conference and some results from the Bermuda survey will be highlighted on the second day.
Dr Guthman said “the entire community” should attend the first day of the event, at HSBC on Front Street.
She added it was important for organisations and businesses to take part in day two — Economics of Aces, to be held at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club — “because we all have to buy in to this concept in order to move it and drive it forward”.
Ms Dismont added: “Adverse childhood experiences has great relevance here on the island and the community Aces survey that is in progress as we speak will verify, we believe, our theory that what we are seeing played out in many families, homes, schools and at work have as an underlying cause of unaddressed trauma or untreated adverse circumstances.”
She added: “It’s just so important that we understand the root cause of what is affecting so many, not only children but adults in Bermuda.”
The BHeC said a report about the impact of conditions associated with child neglect, family dysfunction and exposure to trauma will be released alongside the Ace questionnaire results next week.
Tara Hines, a project associate in data analytics and research outcomes at the health council, said: “The Aces conference will be an informative forum to discuss the impact of Aces on the healthcare system, from individual and community perspectives. The research we are conducting is the direct result of community engagement, is validated by international sources, and reflects the importance of continuing to grow our evidence base in country.”
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