The reality is many young people who have experienced homelessness have experienced other forms of trauma. Homelessness itself is traumatic.
Trauma manifests differently for everyone, and we want to prepare all hosts to be aware of trauma and be trauma-informed. You do not need to be mental health specialist to be trauma-informed, it solely means recognizing people often have trauma in their lives even if it is not visible. People need support and understanding from those around them regardless of their experiences. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized despite one’s intentions. Understanding the impact of trauma is an important first step in becoming a more supportive space for that youth.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events occurring before age 18. ACEs include all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence. A landmark study in the 1990s found a significant relationship between the number of ACEs a person experienced and a variety of negative outcomes in adulthood, including poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, and risky behaviors. The more ACEs experienced, the greater the risk for these outcomes.
Lynn Davis of Frederick County (MD) Public Schools helps us to understand the impact of trauma and ACEs upon young people today.
Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance use disorders has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. This video is an impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.
For the vital signs of adverse childhood experiences, visit the CDC’s website. To learn about risk and protective factors, outcomes associated with ACEs, and evidence-based strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate the impact of ACEs, visit Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).