What Is Resiliency?
An effort is underway to educate the community about the effects of childhood trauma and resiliency in Brunswick County.
A word that educators, healthcare workers, religious communities and the justice system have come to use in recent years is resiliency. People who talk about resiliency know about a study in the late 1990s that showed a connection between childhood trauma and poor health. The study proved, however, that people can lessen the effects of trauma when they learn skills to counteract the stress that traumas bring; thus, they can learn resiliency and improve their health.
Lauren Clark, program integration coordinator at Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear in Wilmington, explains that a Community Resiliency Model (CRM), a skills-based wellness program, has been designed with these research findings in mind. This model trains community members to learn the biology of trauma and stress and the skills to lessen them while increasing resilience. In turn, they can teach others these skills. Clark is a CRM trainer.
Clark held a virtual beginner workshop in resiliency on October 2. It accomplished the purpose of the model: a focus on sharing skills and tools to help normalize participants’ experiences with stress and share tools to increase their own resilience. It explained terms such as ACEs, toxic stress and resiliency to better understand this concept.
ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences. These experiences or traumas can be:
– physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse
– having a mother who is/was physically abused
– living with someone who is mentally ill
– living with a drug or alcohol abuser
– incarceration of a household member
The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely that child will develop physical and mental health issues later in life, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and substance abuse.
“An ACE score of four or higher is remarkably predictive of someone’s eventual entry into the criminal justice system,” says Jon David, district attorney for Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties. He adds that knowing someone’s ACEs score can help officials connect the individuals to the resources they need.
Toxic stress is the extreme, frequent or extended activation of the body’s stress response without the nurturing support of a stable adult. “A trauma is a biological response,” Clark says. These traumas alter cell structure and impede the brain’s development. “We need to get rid of that stress in our bodies.”
Resiliency is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. Clark cites the definition from Elaine Miller-Karas, cofounder of the Community Resiliency Model: “It’s an individual and community’s ability to identify and use individual and collective strength in living fully in the present moment and to thrive while managing the activities of daily living.”
“We want to address [ACEs] at the earliest level, so the child might grow up to not experience some of the health conditions and mental health effects we’ve seen,” Clark says.
Studies show that trauma and stress are carried in a person’s DNA and passed down to generations, Clark says. If an entire school can be aware of these effects and informed on how to counteract them, they can be controlled. The documentary film Resilience explains the science behind ACEs. An online trailer that gives an overview is at tugg.com/titles/resilience.
“[The film] does a great job of opening people’s eyes to ACEs and the effects of trauma and the possibilities of resilience of communities coming together,” Clark says. She adds that North Carolina has the most community resilience model trainers per capita other than California, where the model was created.
Bonnie Jordan, executive director of Communities In Schools, says, “The goal of a resiliency task force is to foster resiliency among all community members.” This includes social service and healthcare providers, local institutions and churches and clergy.
“Everyone should have access to these wellness skills and these resiliency skills,” Clark says. A Brunswick County task force aims to identify strategies to increase resilience against the unique challenges in the county.
The October 2 workshop provided hands-on practice of these skills:
Biology of traumatic/stressful reactions. This includes understanding the nervous system and how people biologically respond to stress.
Tracking – noticing your feelings and where they reside in your body. This is understanding our sensations and responding to what our body is telling us.
Grounding – getting centered. To build stable relationships, people have to have a centered connection to the ground in a physical way for a sense of security.
Resourcing – summoning internal calm. Thinking of something that brings you to a comfort zone, noticing these internal sensations of peace and calm.
Help Now – When you need a rapid reset. Learn skills that you need to calm yourself. The app ichill.com offers suggestions.
Helen Gabriel, executive director of Smart Start, which works to improve care, health and education for children from birth to 5 years of age, is an advocate of a resiliency task force.
“I am so glad Brunswick County as a whole is getting involved with resiliency,” she says. “The idea of resiliency is to track children and their adverse experiences. These are directly related to your health and follow you the rest of your life.”
David reminds community members that a positive adult role can have an impact on a child’s resiliency.
“We measure resiliency success by spreading awareness of what the ACE score is,” David says. “A positive adult role model can fill the void in a child’s life. That’s what resilience is.”
Clark says it would be advantageous to bring organizations back together to discuss a resiliency task force in Brunswick County.
However, “We are struggling with having the resources to do so,” she says. “We want to increase education and awareness within our county so we can encourage organizations and individuals to find a way to be involved.”
Want to know more about Community Resiliency?
Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear
(910) 763-0200, Lauren Clark