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UCPS film screening and forum tackle toxic stress and resiliency

Resilience Feature Story Many adults have encountered trauma at some point in their lives and may experience common, typical stressors on a near-daily basis.

But what happens when our children also experience stress? What happens when the levels of stress in their everyday lives are so high that it begins to wreak havoc on their brains and bodies? And what can we, as a community, do about it?

On Oct. 24, UCPS and Novant Health hosted a forum at Marvin Ridge High where they explored the answers to those questions.

“Adverse childhood experiences have a significant impact on our children,” Dr. Michael Clark, Novant Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, said at the beginning of the session. “This information has been out there for 20 years, but it’s only now making its way into the public sphere.”

During the event, parents, community members and educators watched the film Resilience, a 1-hour documentary that explored how childhood toxic stress can put children at greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time and early death. These stressors, which transcends all zip codes, can be evaluated by an Adverse Childhood Experience quiz, a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, household dysfunction and more.

Resilience also chronicled how trailblazers in pediatrics, education and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to fight back. Resilience, which is built throughout life, as well as stable, parental guidance are key, the film said.

Following the screening, UCPS moderated a panel discussion with UCPS Lead Social Worker Belle Walker, Union County Division Director of Social Services Ashley Lantz, Novant Health Family and Sports Medicine physician Dr. Eric Warren as well as Dr. Clark. The panelists discussed how their work aligns with and validates themes in the film and they talked at length about our local systemic challenges and opportunities to work together and make a difference.

The panelists all agreed that continued and even greater collaboration among nonprofits and the school system combined with more parental education about trauma as well as additional preventative programs are critical to supporting students as they deal with adverse childhood experiences.

Even so, they also discussed simple steps that parents and community members can take to help build resilience in students.

“Simply asking someone what happened to you versus what is wrong with you is major and can have an impact on people,” Ashley said. “Sometimes we get so overwhelmed thinking that we have to come up with really grand ideas but even small things can make a huge difference.”

After the panel discussion, Cuthbertson Middle and Kensington Elementary parent Kevin Dailey said other parents should also watch the film if not for their own understanding of resiliency but for their parenting and participation in a society that is highly impacted by social public health issues.

“Conversations about the importance of emotional intelligence education and teaching resilience are happening nationally. I am passionate that this is a way to solve a lot of public health problems from incarceration to cardiac arrest – it’s kind of amazing,” he said. “I would love to see us and our community, as a whole, do a better job equipping children across all ages with resilience skills. Resiliency and emotional regulation is very important in every arena of life, and it’s amazing it doesn’t get discussed more.”

UCPS and Novant Health will discuss planning more sessions that will be held in the spring.

Posted: Oct. 25, 2018