The Long-term Impact of Trauma

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Contributor: Beth Clay, Executive Director of NEW Mental Health Connection

As the Executive Director of the NEW Mental Health Connection, I have had the privilege of educating the United Way Impact Area Committee volunteers and staff on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and the long-term impact of trauma. “ACEs” comes from the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a groundbreaking public health study that discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of many of the health and social challenges faced by our community. Adverse childhood experiences (abuse, neglect, mentally ill parent, drug/alcohol addicted family member, incarcerated family member, domestic violence, loss of parent/divorce) harm children's developing brains so profoundly that the effects continue to impact their lives decades later.
The study showed that ACEs are common (2/3 of respondents had one ACE) and the more ACEs you have, the greater the risk for chronic disease, mental illness and a variety of social problems. For example, people with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers and seven times more likely to be alcoholic, have a 400% increased risk of heart disease, and a 1200% increased risk of suicide. In fact, through the original study and hundreds of replications at the national and state levels, we understand that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the most basic and long-lasting cause of health risk behaviors, mental illness, social malfunction, disease, disability, healthcare costs, and early death.
Many of our nonprofit resource agencies are working on issues (homelessness, abuse, poverty, mental illness) that represent the “downstream” wreckage of ACEs, requiring agencies to find a new way to serve…this new way is called “Trauma Informed Care.”  Once again, United Way Fox Cities is leading the way in understanding and responding to our community's needs. You can learn more about the ACE Study, trauma, and Trauma Informed Care at