Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are traumatic events that happen in a child’s early years. These traumatic experiences can often affect a child’s future, from their physical and mental health to how the child sees the world and treats others too.
Children are vulnerable to the effects of trauma because their brains are still developing. If something bad happens during these crucial early years, a traumatic experience can change their brain permanently.
Examples of ACE, include:
> When parents separate or divorce
> Domestic violence
> Death in the family
> Child abuse or neglect
> Witnessing violence at home or in the community
> A parent who has drug or alcohol issues
> Neglect and hunger
> Being around adults with severe mental health issues
How ACEs can have long term health effects
A child who is brought up in these negative and unstable environments can often experience feelings of acute stress and anxiety but doesn’t have the necessary tools or support to alleviate these feelings, which can have a detrimental effect to their wellbeing throughout life
What’s more, when a child experiences long periods of intense stress, they’re more likely to develop heart- and brain-related illnesses, as well as conditions like diabetes and shortened life expectancy.
Mental health issues, including depression, alcoholism and violent behaviour, can also arise from being under constant stress and anxiety as a child.
To find out more, Public Health Wales created an animated video showing the journey of a child who has experienced ACEs and how it came to affect his health and his behaviour in later life. Watch it, here The mental health effects of living in a pandemic
Whether you’re six or sixty, the last eighteen months have been difficult for us all. Extreme lifestyle changes, like those caused by Covid-19, have an impact on many people’s mental wellbeing – adults as well as children.
Wales’ Deputy Health and Social Service Minister, Julie Morgan, says childhood adversity has increased as a result of Covid-19, especially among disadvantaged or vulnerable communities, or areas where there’s lots of unemployment.
‘The pandemic has again highlighted the significant inequalities which exist in our society and how some children and families are disproportionately affected,’ she says.
We can help
If you know a child who has been affected by ACEs, the good news is we’re here to help. We can’t make the past go away, but we can give the child tools to help them deal with those negative experiences.
Merthyr Tydfil Primary Care Cluster provides support to around 60,000 patients in the area across several practices. Our goal is to make sure we give you and your family the treatment, advice and support you need, when you need it.
As well as healthcare professionals, including community and district nurses, midwives, health visitors, mental health teams, social services and other local authority staff (to name but a few of the specialists we have on board), we also have a team of hardworking volunteers who are there to support people on an individual basis.
If you want to get in touch, we can and will help. Just fill in the contact form on our website, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.