Trenton Tackles a Taboo: Trauma

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Accelerating Action for a Healthy Trenton

For too many Trenton residents, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – violence, poverty, neglect, divorce, incarceration – are woven into the fabric of their families and their community. Trenton residents are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to be unemployed than others across the state; and children living in poverty are more likely to experience three or more ACEs. 

Given the history endured by such marginalized communities, however, addressing issues of trauma and its consequences is difficult. 

Yet many “behavior” or “criminal” issues facing our community are rooted in toxic stress resulting from adverse childhood experiences. That’s why Trenton Health Team (THT), the City of Trenton and the Urban Mental Health Alliance initiated a public, community-wide conversation to acknowledge, heal and prevent trauma in our community with a free event featuring an acclaimed film and discussion with local and national experts.

In addition to an event for THT’s Community Advisory Board, we hosted a free public screening of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope

ACEs include physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors, such as divorce or having a parent in prison. The aggregation of these experiences impacts individuals’ life-long health and wellbeing and may be tallied through taking a simple ACEs quiz.

A child who answers “yes” to four or more of the ACEs questions is 32 times more likely to struggle with learning and behavior problems in school. Among those who answer “yes” to six or more questions, the average life expectancy drops by 20 years.  

During our public event, the 110 community members in attendance were invited to take the ACEs quiz anonymously and share their results online. Nearly half of those respondents answered “yes” to experiencing four or more– and five percent of respondents reported experiencing all 10.

Trenton city leaders are eager to make our city more healing-centered. THT, as a convener, can identify and leverage points to improve conditions in ways that reverberate.

Meet other NJHI-supported communities working to reduce the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences: Cape May and North Bergen

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Learn more about NJHI’s approach to partnering with NJ communities in this two-minute video:

Michelle Ruess
Trenton Health Team