TAOS COUNTY, NEW MEXICO

ACEs & TRAUMA

Understand the multi-generational impact of ACEs and trauma on your community.

INSIGHT
UNDERSTANDING ACEs AND TRAUMA

Inside ACEs & Trauma

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This page provides Taos County residents with an overview of Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and potential health challenges related to ACEs-related trauma in children and students, as well as untreated trauma in parents and caregivers.

What are adverse childhood experiences?

ACEs

Image 1. ACEs: The ten forms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) endured in the home that can lead to trauma in children and untreated trauma in parents and other adults in the household.

We have known for decades that our children endure various forms of adversity, abuse, neglect and trauma. Since the publication of the original ACEs Study by Doctors Felitti and Anda in 1998, thousands of research articles have been published describing the magnitude and severity of ACEs, including evidence-based prevention and treatment efforts for all family members. The challenge is to confront this epidemic of adverse childhood experiences that diminishes the lives of our most vulnerable residents and doom many families to lives of costly ACEs-related health challenges.

The hope is that every child in Taos is treasured, protected from adversity, abuse, neglect and trauma. The reality is far from that as adverse childhood experiences, and the related health challenges they can manifest, are far from rare. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were first identified in the groundbreaking ACEs Study by Felitti and Ander in 1998. ACEs, identified by the authors and researchers in an attempt to understand how childhood experiences impact adult health outcomes, represent ten forms of adversity children endure in the home and include:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Living in households with domestic violence
  7. Living with adults who misuse substances
  8. Living with adults with untreated mental health challenges
  9. Having parents separate or divorced
  10. Living in households where a member is incarcerated

As our data on child maltreatment, adversity and family functioning illustrate, our children may endure one or many ACEs.

The Prevalence of ACEs

Image 2. What are adverse childhood experiences?: 2009 was the last time the NM Dept of Health administered the survey and asked about only 8 of the 10 ACEs during the phone interviews. Read it here.  
Source: New Mexico Department of Health. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, 2009

FIGHT or FLIGHT

A BEAR IN THE WOODS: UNDERSTANDING TRAUMA

For children living in unsafe homes with parents unequipped to parent, an adverse childhood experience can be like confronting a bear in the woods. Our fight or flight response engages in order to survive. Most of us run from the bear. This is not an option for our children enduring ACEs. This fight or flight response, a short-term strategy that saves us from a bear is not one we are designed to live with constantly. Children were not designed to live in constant fear in their homes, wondering each day if an attack is coming. For our students, those with ACEs will spend far more time worrying about what awaits them at home than doing math homework.

There may be costly short, intermediate, long-term and lifelong health, safety and learning and work-related consequences for enduring ACEs and the potential trauma it can cause. The more ACEs endured, the more likely one is to suffer through childhood, the teens and adulthood. ACEs can lead to emotional and physical challenges.1, 2. including increased mental illness3, 4, stresses on the child welfare and legal system5, 6,  school dropout and underemployment8, substance misuse9, and negative impact on employers.10

The Costs Keep Rising
ACEs Impact

The Impact of ACEs

Much is written about ACEs and how the original ACEs Survey by Doctors Felitti and Anda in 1998 showing linkages between those who endured ACEs and their physical and emotional health as adults. We invite all Taos residents to continue that conversation about ACEs by reviewing some of our costliest local challenges, exploring how ACEs can cause problems or have a strong link to such problems.

SURVEY

THE ACES SURVEY

The ACEs survey, developed by Doctors Felitti and Anda, was designed for adults to take. In recent years, decades after the original ACEs Study, there is now an “ACEs app” that teens use to do a self-assessment. The survey results do not determine a person’s health outcomes yet they can warn people of risks for health challenges, such as substance use disorders, that might exist due to a high ACEs score. If adults or youth have any questions about ACEs survey results, they should contact a health care provider.

The first step in the 100% Taos model is assessment. In order to improve access to ten vital services, we must first have a clear idea of how our residents are doing. On the Spotlight on Taos page you will find data that reflect the social determinants of health and overall picture of the county residents’ health and safety.

ACEs survey image
ACEs IN OUR LIVES

There is no more a complex social challenge than ACEs, and nothing more important for community stakeholders to fully understand. ACEs and the trauma it can cause impacts all residents, directly or indirectly. While some may score a zero on the ACEs ten-question ACEs survey, we all navigate a world of relatives, friends, neighbors, educators and co-workers who may have scored much, much higher. This can mean untreated trauma in home, school and the workplace. 

As one reviews the data and research associated with ACEs and all the challenges correlated to them, key points became clear:

  1. ACEs can push our children in a constant state of fight or flight with lifelong impact
  2. Most forms of ACEs are hidden, flying under the radar of schools and child protective services.
  3. ACEs occur in all socio-economic groups
  4. ACEs is cyclical as the trauma is passed from generation to generation.

The most important thing to understand about ACEs and their impact on Taos is that the consequences of ACEs and untreated childhood trauma impair our physical and emotional health, destroy essential relationships, fill our jails, diminish our workforce, inhibit learning in our schools, overtax our emergency rooms and encourage the sort of hopelessness that drives people to drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. 

ACEs A PREDICTABLE AND PREVENTABLE CHALLENGE

ACEs and all the challenges associated with them are predictable. The data you have reviewed shows how science is able to track our most pressing health and safety challenges. We also have the capacity to turn science into real-world prevention strategies. That data-driven work is at the centerpiece of 100% Taos and you are invited to join the groundbreaking work across the county, ensuring each community is empowered to achieve the goal of trauma-free childhoods for 100%.

References

  1. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Felitti et al.1998. https://aae.how/314
  2. The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Shonkoff, et al. 2012. https://aae.how/315
  3. ACEs and the risk of depressive disorders in adulthood. Chapman, et all. 2004 https://aae.how/316
  4. The relationship between ACEs and mental health in adulthood. De Venter, et al. 2013. https://aae.how/317
  5. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the US and implications for prevention. Fang, et al. 2011. https://aae.how/318
  6. The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) in the lives of juvenile offenders. Baglivio, et al. 2014. https://aae.how/319
  7. Education Brief: ACEs for Educators and Stakeholders, The Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, Health and Medicine Research Groups. https://aae.how/320
  8. The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School. Sum, et al. 2009. https://aae.how/321
  9. New Mexico Substance Use Epidemiology Profile https://aae.how/322
  10. Relationship between ACEs and unemployment among adults from five U.S. states. Liu, et al. 2012. https://aae.how/323