Preventing ACEs to Help Reduce the Mental Health Crisis in Children and Adults

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Surveys, Adverse Childhood Experiences ACEs account for 29.8% of all psychiatric disorders. So can preventing ACEs, help flatten the curve that is the rising mental health crisis in the UK?

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences ACEs?

ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences that happen to children that can have long-term effects and damage their possibilities in life. Examples of such experiences include neglect, watching or experiencing violence, and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Negative childhood and adolescent experiences may increase a child's likelihood of developing long-term health issues, and put them at risk of mental health issues, and substance abuse in adulthood.

ACEs and the link to Mental Health

The correlation between ACEs and the Mental Health of children and adults has long been documented and worrying stats from the Doctors Union revealed ‘the number of children and young people in contact with mental health services since 2016 has expanded at almost four times the pace of the psychiatry workforce.’ In a study conducted by BioMed Central titled, Relationships between adverse childhood experiences and adult mental well-being, they found that ‘of individual ACEs, growing up in a household affected by mental illness and suffering sexual abuse had the most relationships with markers of mental well-being.’

Data from The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that Preventing ACEs could reduce the number of adults with depression by as much as 44%.

ACEs are preventable

Fortunately Adverse Childhood Experiences are preventable. Understanding and addressing the factors that lead to ACEs are vital for prevention. Advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following strategies:

Strengthen economic supports to families - Strengthening household financial security and creating family-friendly work policies that offer better work / life balance for families.

Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity, via public education campaigns,
legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment and encouraging men and boys to be allies in prevention.

Ensure a strong start for children with early childhood home visitation, high-quality child care and enrichment programmes that promote family engagement.

Teach skills, like social-emotional learning, safe and healthy relationship skill programs and parenting skills for family relationship.

Connect youth to caring adults and activities via mentoring and after-school programs.

Intervene to lessen immediate and long-term harms by increasing enhanced primary care, improve victim-centred and substance abuse services and treatment to lessen the harms of ACEs.

The Role of Safeguarding

A rigorous recording and reporting process is the first step in best practise. While a minor worry or issue may not seem critical in the moment, if you keep track of all these little worries over time, you may build a comprehensive picture of all the safeguarding and child safety issues affecting your organisation. This gives you the information to make sure each situation is handled properly and enables you to set up plans to stop certain problems from happening again in the future. We recommend our Queen’s award-winning MyConcern for the proper recording and reporting of concerns, combined with MyVoice, our anonymous reporting software that’s accessible to everyone in your organisations including children, pupils and volunteers.

A Community Wife Effort

Together, we can change the way individuals perceive the causes of ACEs, and work to end the stigma associated with getting treatment for substance abuse, depression, suicide thoughts, or parenting difficulties. By changing the emphasis from personal accountability to a collective community action, we can encourage caring, stable and secure interactions and surroundings where children live, learn and play.


Further reading and support

Posted Date

22nd May 2023

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