Adults with childhood traumas 11 times more likely to be involved in drugs and violence, report says
A task force has been set up to improve support for people who have experienced childhood traumas in a bid to prevent long-term reliance on health services into adulthood.
The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) working group has been formed by Suffolk County Council’s public health team to work alongside police, NHS services and voluntary organisations as a priority project.
Among the experiences classified as adverse are sexual or physical abuse, parents separating, a family history of drugs or alcohol, criminality, neglect or exposure to domestic violence.
Stark figures supplied to Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board of health service chiefs said that those with four or more ACEs were twice as likely to binge drink, seven times more likely to be involved in violence and 11 times likely to have been incarcerated, or used heroin and crack.
They were also more likely to have visited a GP, needed A&E treatment or had an sexually transmitted disease (STD), the council’s report said.
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The task force aims to develop measures which will better support people experiencing these traumas, and in turn reduce reliance on health services later down the line.
Councillor Tony Goldson, chairman of Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Recent studies have demonstrated a clear link between childhood trauma and the emergence of health damaging behaviours and poor social outcomes in adulthood.”
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He said it “can alter how a child’s brain develops due to chronic traumatic stress in early life” because “it fundamentally alters nervous, hormonal and immunological system development”.
Mr Goldson said the work was in its infancy but local data was already being compiled and a DVD shown over how measures set up internationally have come about.
Nancy Merfeld, wellbeing clinical manager at Suffolk Young People’s Health Project (4YP) which offers counselling and other support services to youngsters, said it was crucial help was available for people at a young age.
“Everyone responds to ACEs differently and their impact can vary depending on the severity of the events, external support available, and the personality of the young person,” she said.
“By having support for young people, we can enable them to develop safe coping strategies, build safe support networks and build resilience as the transition from childhood to adulthood is always challenging.”
A Suffolk police spokesman added: “We are committed to steering vulnerable youths of all ages away from crime.
“To this end, we work very closely with partner organisations to identify and engage with those children to prevent an escalation of further offending.”