By Dianne Smith
Why do some children bounce back from what the mental health community calls adverse childhood experiences and others are so affected that it continues to negatively impact them into their adult years? Then, there is the question of what can be done to help so that children can thrive in spite of stressors and negative childhood experiences? How do we help support those who are struggling in our community? The Region 1 Behavioral Health Board’s Children’s Mental Health Sub-Committee is hosting an upcoming showing of the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope” at the Panida on April 11 starting at 6 p.m. After the movie there will be a panel discussion with local experts, discussing how stress impacts local families which impacts the entire community. Most importantly they will be discussing what we as a community can do to help our youth thrive in spite of the many adversities in today’s society.
Adverse childhood experiences are more common than many think as they are often hidden. According to the film: 28 percent of children have experienced physical abuse, 27 percent have experienced substance abuse in the family, 13 percent have experienced domestic violence and 20 percent have experienced sexual abuse. Sometimes having to go to bed hungry and not knowing where you are going to live can be an adverse experience. As the new documentary “Resilience” reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. The movie also highlights the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.
The challenge is what the community can do to prevent the toxic stress and help youth grow into contributing members of the community. With the recent increase in youth suicide in the community, now is the time to wrap the youth of the community with love and care in the philosophy of it takes a village to raise healthy children. If we care for them now we can prevent many problems as they enter into adulthood including: decreasing the prison population, decreasing drug addiction and preventing chronic disease. If you interview many of the prison population the statistics are staggering on how many grew up in violent, toxic, traumatic environments with no strong adults to mentor them. There are many ways that people in the community work to support positive experiences, even when they have struggles of their own. You see this every day on local Facebook pages where people reach out to help others. The more every one can emotionally support themselves and others the stronger the community can to provide a place where youth can thrive.
Join the panel of local experts as they discuss things we can do to provide a more caring, supportive community. In 2010, Walla Walla, Wash., launched the Children’s Resilience Initiative with the goal being to raise awareness around the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to foster resilience through educating all of the adults who impact children’s lives. This film and panel, which includes members from both Bonner and Boundary Counties will give community members a chance to see how adverse childhood experiences impact the entire community and what can be done to promote healing. With the lawsuit of Jeff D versus the State of Idaho coming to the forefront of children’s mental health, prevention and early intervention is the focus at both the state and the federal level. If we continue to focus on creating great community support, we can continue to provide a supportive community for youth to thrive and grow. The more caring adults who can give back to the youth community, the more the youth community thrives. One significant adult, one significant interaction can make all the difference in the life of a youth.
Dianne Smith is a licensed counselor with offices in Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint. She can be reached at 951-440-0982