ST. GEORGE— A documentary detailing with the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACE – and how they relate to mental health issues, substance abuse and even physical ailments such as obesity and cancer will be showing Wednesday at the Electric Theater.
A private showing of the documentary “Resilience,” which informs the public about the dangers of toxic stress, was held recently for those working in mental health, schools or the hospital. One more free showing, this one open to the public, will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The documentary explains how childhood experiences – especially bad childhood experiences – can cause toxic stress, which has recently been determined to be the cause of many behavioral, mental and physical health issues, said Wayne Connors of National Alliance on Mental Health, Utah Southwest.
Abuse or neglect has been found to actually damage a child’s developing brain, according to ACEs Too High. When a child is overloaded with stress hormones, they go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This causes them to have difficulties focusing in school, trust adults or have healthy relationships with peers.
Those with toxic stress often find themselves turning to substance abuse or risky behaviors to relieve their anger, stress or depression. They may live risky lifestyles, such as engaging in high-risk sports, having many sexual partners, smoking or overeating. They may end up suffering from mental illness or acting out, or they could end up with a physical health issue such as asthma, obesity, heart disease and even cancer when their body produces an inflammatory response that leads to disease as a response to stress.
“It’s something that affects the person,” Connors said. “They don’t just brush it off. It kind of stays with them. It’s something that’s very deep.”
According to ACES Too High, ACEs are common: 28 percent of children suffer physical abuse, 21 percent sexual abuse, 11 percent psychological abuse, 15 percent suffer from emotional neglect and 10 percent from physical neglect. Household dysfunction, such as parents struggling from substance abuse, mental illness or their own history of being abused, can lead to ACE too.
Treating these issues as an adult requires counseling and the affected person realizing and accepting what they went through and how they are going to let it affect who they are today.
“Once you get into the counseling, you can dig out some of what really happened and you can go past that,” Connors said. “You’re becoming more resilient in your life. You’re letting that go, you’re bouncing back into your real self.”
Resilience is the ability to bounce back, Connors said. It’s the ability to be resilient to stresses and issues in life. ACEs Too High offers an ACE resilience test to help people learn their ACE score. The 10-question test asks participants to give honest answers about things that may have happened to them as a child. It asks specific questions about physical, emotional, sexual and psychological abuses, as well as about whether their parents were divorced, suffered from addiction or were abused.
The more questions that are answered “yes,” the higher the person’s risk for chronic disease and social or emotional problems and the greater their need for counseling.
NAMI offers support groups and peer-to-peer classes for those in recovery to receive counseling and support for a wide variety of mental health issues.
“If they can get past that point of reliving all that stuff in the past, then all the sudden it frees them up to become who they really are,” Connors said.
- What: “Resilience” documentary showing.
- When: Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m.
- Where: Electric Theater, 68 E. Tabernacle St., St. George.
- Admission: Free.
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