When I think about Monika’s point, and my own look at the numbers, I repeat what I said back then, when looking at one individual, the ACE survey is never the whole story. There are lots of childhood experiences that go unaccounted for, there are individual levels of resilience that are not accounted for, and there are early interventions that are not considered. One traumatic experience equals one traumatic experience in the final number, regardless of whether that experience was immediately followed up with support and maybe even therapy, or if it was ignored and maybe even repeated. There are numerous factors beyond simply answering more than 4 questions yes and assuming you’re an addict, or not answering enough questions yes and assuming you aren’t. It is much more complicated than that.
The ACE information is important though because it points us back to that childhood trauma and says “what happened to you?” when treating an individual for depression, or addiction, so that we can include that in our healing. What we want to be careful with is turning it into a blunt instrument when there is still so much not being accounted for within it.
As Brandy shares, processing grief can sometimes mean being angry, or feeling things about the death of a loved one that don’t always jive with how we’d want suicide reported, but these are not spokespeople, advocates, or reporters, they are people dealing with their own pain.
Maybe, if we want people to speak their truth, we need to give them the room to express it the way they feel it, not silence them in the interest of not hearing terms we don’t love.
The reality is, even if a kid has had severe trauma in their life, there are things we can do, immediately, that can lower the chances of this trauma impacting them later in life. Things like getting them support, positive role models and experiences, and actively getting them involved in healing can make a huge difference.
Now, here comes a study, linked below, that has done the real scientific research and found:
“ACE scores can forecast mean group differences in later health problems; however, ACE scores have poor accuracy in identifying individuals at high risk for future health problems.”
Yes, there are statistics that show that there’s an impact at the societal level from childhood trauma. We should be addressing those issues as a society, things like child poverty, parents in the prison system, abuse, neglect, etc. because we know that as we lessen those impacts on kids, and make resources available for the kids who’s trauma we can’t prevent, we can impact the overall increases in depression, addiction, crime rates, etc. that are a direct result of childhood trauma. But, at an individual level, these things aren’t fate. How one person navigates trauma and is impacted by it, is not going to come down to just the number of traumas they dealt with as a child. When we identify one person with 4 or more ACEs according to the survey, all that really tells us is that it’s basically 50-50 whether or not they are depressed, or there’s a close to 30% chance they’ve used illicit drugs, but a 70% chance they haven’t. One person is not going to neatly fit every category and shouldn’t be treated as if they do.