Friday, May 27, 2022

Resilient Brunswick educates on childhood trauma and health

County task force follows PACEs model, teaches community-wide resiliency

Resilient Brunswick is hosting a virtual showing of the documentary “Resilience” to educate the public on mitigating adverse health effects caused by childhood traumas. (Courtesy of “Resilience,” KPJR Films)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Childhood traumas, negative life experiences and even natural disasters can cause lasting impacts on a person’s mental and physical health. A group of nonprofit, business and elected leaders formed Resilient Brunswick in 2019 to help mitigate health risks resulting from past traumatic events.

The Brunswick County Resiliency Task Force was established under the Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences (PACEs) model, which focuses on specific childhood experiences — abuse, neglect or household dysfunction. According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Brunswick County rates higher than the state average in child abuse for ages 0 to 8.

Studies show early onset trauma has been linked to suicide attempts and substance abuse later in life, as well as become contributing factors to adverse health effects, such as cancer, heart disease and lung disease. NCDHHS reports suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 20 to 39 in the county and across the state.

While the pandemic put a brief pause on momentum, Resilient Brunswick has hit the ground running recently, meeting monthly and gearing up for continued public engagement. To introduce the program and its methodology to the community, the task force will host a free virtual opportunity Feb. 7 open to the public. Community members are invited to watch over Zoom “Resilience,” a 2016 KPJR Films documentary that dives into the science behind childhood experiences and health. A discussion about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and local resiliency efforts will follow the screening, offered a t9 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. (registration available here).

“This isn’t something just for professionals in mental health,” said Bonnie Jordan, executive director at Communities in Schools of Brunswick County. “This is for every single person. The more people are aware of it and involved with it, and supporting their own needs and the needs of others they care about, the stronger the community is collectively.”

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris — founder of Center for Youth Wellness who is also featured in “Resilience” — created the ACEs questionnaire that uses 10 key inquiries to determine how significant childhood experiences affect a person’s long-term wellbeing. Her research piggy-backs off an American Journal of Preventive Medicine article that gained popularity in the 1980s and notes that risk is the same for all genders, race, ethnicities, ages and socio-economic status. 

“It is not a poor man’s issue. It is a societal issue. It is a community issue. It is our issue,” a Resilient Brunswick news release stated.

While still in its infancy, Resilient Brunswick is looking to educate the public about the effects of ACEs and provide resources on how people can negate pitfalls from past experiences. Showing the film throughout the year is just one of the ways Jordan said the team plans to initiate the discussion and reach an inclusive audience.

“We want to get an assessment out to organizations – medical groups, clergy, businesses – any group to assess broadly. What are the needs in these communities? What are the effects having an influence on people’s health and well-being? And to educate, inform and support to strengthen the community overall,” Jordan explained.

Jordan was among eight founding members of the nationwide movement, tailored to local communities. District Attorney Jon David, who became aware of the resiliency efforts regionally, approached Jordan as a possible advocate and leader. Several local organizations’ staff had already viewed the film “Resilience” in different settings and realized they were working toward the same efforts.

“We all collaborated kind of [by] accident,” Jordan said. “We’ve all learned a little about resiliency and came together and said, ‘Where do we want this to go and what do we need to do here in Brunswick County?’”

Resilient Brunswick is part of the global PACEs network – with connections in all 50 states and 40 countries – and plans to collaborate with New Hanover, Bladen and Columbus counties, who also have formed resiliency groups. The Brunswick County team hired its first full-time position to provide administrative support as the rest of the members are volunteers.

Funding for this role came from part of a regional Healthy Blue grant, totaling $85,000 to cover PACEs Connection membership for regional task forces, and Resilient Brunswick is just one of five counties to receive allocated funds. Along with the new hire, the team is utilizing the money to launch its first initiative to support foster children and parents.

“We plan to look at how foster parents can be better supported and the kids they’re fostering can get to school, stay in school and [what] resources and support we can offer to make that possible,” Jordan said.

Additionally, future plans will examine education, the healthcare system, the juvenile justice system and broad community effects from natural disasters.

Resilient Brunswick created a Memorandum of Understanding for organizations wanting to show support and join the movement. Jordan said so far, nearly 20 regional groups have joined the efforts.

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