(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has issued a proclamation written by State Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) designating December 2018 as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Awareness Month.
Adverse Childhood Experiences — known as ACEs — are any harmful or traumatic events that negatively impact a child in important areas of his or her life. These experiences can remain with an individual well into adulthood and include an atmosphere of verbal or physical abuse and neglect, witnessing violence, parental incarceration or death, parental divorce, death of a parent or a parent who suffers from alcohol or substance abuse, or mental illness.
Studies indicate ACEs cause toxic stress in children and often have lasting consequences on their physical and emotional health, future relationships, as well as a negative impact on their education and future work-lives.
“Instead of learning important emotional skills, such as how to work out problems with people, how to take care of one’s belongings, how to organize oneself to succeed in school, or learning healthy, personal habits and important life skills, children who are experiencing ACEs function on an emotional high alert level and are often unable to acquire these skills,” said Representative Lynn. “These children are constantly on guard against the next shocking event; they are frightened for their well-being or for the well-being of a parent or sibling.”
Research suggests that ACEs impede a child’s ability to learn skills important for adulthood, and that is why it is not uncommon for them to play out again in the next generation of their family members. The greater the number of ACEs and exposure to toxic stress, the more likely a person will suffer later in life — including chronic diseases, obesity, premature death, unstable relationships, mental illness, substance abuse, imprisonment, or by becoming a victim of violence.
“The younger a child is when they begin experiencing ACEs, the more likely it is that their brain will display physical differences — the effects of which are very difficult to overcome,” added Lynn. “Doing all one can to foster a stable routine and a very loving environment for all children, especially from birth to three, is critical.”
Since more than 60 percent of adults in Tennessee have at least one ACE, the goal of Representative Lynn’s proclamation is to increase awareness of the fact that these harmful experiences can carry a lifetime of consequences. She hopes to encourage individuals and families to seek self-help at church, through books, support groups, therapy and to reach out for government assistance as needed.
Lynn wants to strengthen families and to enhance the potential of each individual, which will also improve the future economic development and prosperity of our state. By learning the term ACEs, she believes many will also learn to recognize when friends and family are experiencing them and take the bold step of reaching out to offer support.
“It was truly Governor Haslam’s work in the area of ACEs support that taught me so much and inspired me to write this proclamation for ACEs Awareness Month,” added Lynn. “The Governor is bringing educators, physicians, psychologists, social workers, police, courts, and clergy across our state together to work in concert to help families experiencing ACEs. Traumatic experiences have negatively impacted many families; if your family is not among them, count your blessings. There are children and parents in our community who need emotional, physical, and financial support to help prevent their ACEs from impacting their lives, as well as the lives of their future children. I am eager to do what I can in this area during the upcoming legislative session to address this very complex issue. Together, we can break the cycle of trauma for many and ensure that current and future generations of our children are able to cope. We want to ensure they have the opportunity to live in safe, nurturing environments, and to one day, create a safe, nurturing environment for their own family. Tennessee’s future depends on it.”