How much impact does your childhood really have on you? Plenty, as Resilience, a short but effective film tracing the relationship between childhood trauma and its lasting health impacts well into adulthood proves.
More than ten years ago, Dr Robert Anda and Dr Vincent Felitti discovered their patients experiencing various behavioural, weight gain and heart disease issues all had things in common – histories of exposure to abuse and trauma in their childhood. Together, the two designed the Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE), a risk assessment type questionnaire designed to tease out patients’ histories of exposure to sexual, physical and substance abuse in their childhood, and discovered a correlation between their exposure and occurrences of diseases and health issues later in life.
Although met with doubt and skepticism at first, the ACE study has since grown and been adopted by various health professionals around the region, including pediatrician Dr Nadine Burke Harris, a firm believer in ACE’s findings. Harris readily applies the theory to her practice, proving it to be true in her various sessions with her child patients, and provides an easy access point for viewers to understand and see its effectiveness, even winning an award for her work eventually.
Much of Resilience is dedicated to showcasing the evidence that ACE is true, using statistics and findings to prove its argument, and warning of the dangers of ignoring it, such as misdiagnoses of ADHD behavior, which though similar in symptoms, in fact, have opposing causal factors, making it easy to mistreat patients. Resilience is very much focused on spreading the word of ACE in order to better solve such health issues at their root and not simply the symptoms.
Resilience isn’t afraid to use its screentime to explain the various effects and process of the biology of stress, emphasising via animation how a child with PTSD and anxiety issues is under constant stress, as if constantly afraid of being run over by a truck, as opposed to a healthy child with normal levels of cortisol. At such an early developmental stage in a child’s life, it’s easy to dismiss their stress as inconsequential as compared to adult fears, but a mistake to, as some of that stress could even lead to physical changes in the brain itself, affecting them for life if left unaddressed.
The solution to all of this is of course, not physical but psychological. Resilience shows the efforts that have been made towards helping adults still reeling from the effects of their childhood trauma, in the form of support groups and open environments where patients can feel free to share their histories and work together with counselors and psychologists to overcome some of those ingrained fears and anxieties. But prevention is of course, better than cure, and doctors have worked towards implementing treatments in children in kindergartens.
Enter kindergarten principal Susan DeNicola, who implemented the Miss Kendra curriculum in her school after recognizing an astonishing amount of children acting out, and sensing that there must have been a reason for it. The Miss Kendra curriculum focuses on creating an open environment for children and teaches them how to articulate their troubles at home or in expressing themselves, allowing educators to identify potential problems before it’s too late, as symptoms only start appearing from the 4th grade on, and to help these kids build up hope and resilience from a young age.
Having established the growth of the study and its impact on lives, Resilience ends on a hopeful note, revealing that the teaching and methodology has been on a constant outreach across the country, spreading at various conferences and receiving much warmer receptions than when it first debuted. Resilience paints a portrait of a study that’s still very much ongoing, and the good news is, it’s been receiving plenty of enthusiasm and support to keep up the good work. Hailed as the single most unaddressed health threat, Resilience makes a strong case in both sociological and financial terms to urge viewers of the importance of such research in the future of psychology and pediatrics, and sells the hope that trauma will continue to receive newer and improved forms of treatment as time goes by.
Resilience will receive its UK premiere on 27 April at the Prince Charles Cinema, London followed by a Q&A with director James Redford and Dr Graham Music. For more information and tickets check out the website here