Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope
Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.
“The child may not remember, but the body remembers.”
The original research was controversial, but the findings revealed the most important public health findings of a generation. Resilience is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent TOXIC STRESS. Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behavior. However, as experts and practitioners profiled in Resilience are proving, what’s predictable is preventable. These physicians, educators, social workers and communities are daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse and neglect. And they’re using cutting edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.
“This is the biggest public health discovery we’ve ever seen.” – Laura Porter, Co-Founder, ACE Interface
When it was controversial to even think of asking patients about taboo subjects, the ACE Study dared to ask questions like, Were you sexually abused as a child? Did you have a parent who was an alcoholic? The answers produced a public health revelation. For the first time, the loss of a parent through death, divorce or incarceration and other traumatic childhood experiences such as living with an alcoholic parent or being sexually abused was conclusively linked to both physical and mental health problems later in life. ACES, or the Acute Childhood Experiences Score, are now understood to lead to early onset heart disease diabetes, addiction and depression. Understanding that a broken-hearted child is more likely to suffer from mental and physical illnesses as an adult has professionals of all kinds asking, How can we help children before their physical and mental health problems emerge as adults?
Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope uses beautiful animation and compelling characters to explore the science and the solutions. The film follows pioneering individuals who looked at the ACES research and the emerging science of toxic stress and asked, Why are we waiting? Each took this new information and used it in new ways.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in San Francisco, intervenes early with her young patients who are greater risk for diabetes and asthma as well as learning and behavior problems now. In New Haven, Connecticut, we meet Alice Forrester and Laura Lawrence of The Clifford Beers Clinic, which provides mental health services for children by including the entire family in their programs. In an elementary school across town, kindergarteners recite “Miss Kendra’s List”—a bill of rights for children—and learn ways of expressing and coping with their stress. In the great Northwest, communities across the state of Washington brought together teachers, police officers, social service workers and government officials to learn about the brain science of adversity. Since implementing “trauma-informed” policies and practices, these communities have seen drastic reductions in rates of everything from dropping out of high school to teen pregnancy, and youth suicide domestic violence.
Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope chronicles the promising beginnings of a national movement to prevent childhood trauma, treat toxic stress, and greatly improve the health of future generations.
When I started hearing about the emerging science of adversity and childhood stress, my mind was blown. High “doses” of stress during childhood get into our bodies, change our brains, and lead to lifelong health and social problems—everything from domestic violence and substance abuse to heart disease and cancer. Who knew that if your parents got a divorce when you were growing up, you have a significantly higher risk of heart disease? Or that if your mother had a drinking problem, your own risk for depression in adulthood is much higher? The science of “toxic stress” and the major findings that came out of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study should be common knowledge public health information. But the movement is still in its infancy.
We started making Resilience to make this science digestible and relevant to everyone, and to showcase some of the brave and creative individuals who are putting that science into action. There is a growing group of pediatricians, educators and communities who are proving that cycles of disease and adversity can be broken.
In the United States, we spend trillions of dollars every year treating preventable diseases, rather than intervening before a patient is sick and suffering. We have a zero-tolerance, “suck it up” culture that judges and punishes bad behavior, rather than trying to understand and treat the root cause of that behavior. But now, with this new body of scientific knowledge available, we are learning there are better ways of dealing with these seemingly intractable problems.
Resilience has a companion film: Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Washington State who radically changed its approach to student discipline, with radically positive results. Our goal with these two projects is to make “toxic stress” and “ACEs” household terms, so that individuals and communities are empowered to improve the health and wellbeing of this and future generations.