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Film Explores Protection from Childhood Trauma's Health Effects

Olena Shvets
Adobe Stock

A new documentary in Idaho looks at childhood trauma and how building resiliency can help protect people in adulthood.

"Resilient Idaho: Hope Lives Here" explores adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect or other serious household dysfunction.

Jean Mutchie, community health manager for St. Luke's Health System, said those experiences are common, and more common in Idaho than other states.

But she noted there are ways to protect children from the effects of these events later in life.

"It really requires leaning in instead of looking away, and understanding that what's happened to people often shows up in behavior early and then also with serious health consequences if not mitigated later on," Mutchie explained. "So, changing the conversation to what's happened to somebody instead of what's wrong with them."

Research finds even one supportive adult in a child's life can help them become more resilient to those adverse events.

The documentary premiered last week on Idaho Public Television. It's also streaming online.

Shannon McGuire, chief empowerment officer at Spark Strategic Solutions in Boise, lost her brother when she was nine. Five days later, the Los Angeles riots broke out in her neighborhood.

Now in Idaho, she recently took an exam focused on adverse childhood experiences and scored eight out of ten.

Researchers have found folks who score this high can live 20 years shorter than average.

But McGuire said she had a supportive family and faith, which helped her get through rough times.

She added people who have been through trauma can harness the experiences if they have the proper support.

"It is an advantage and it may not have hit yet, but it will," McGuire contended. "And where you start in life never, ever has to be where you finish. Never. And you can always give yourself a different finish."

Mutchie emphasized communities can support folks who have been through rough times, and it starts with having a conversation about the challenges people face.

"Let's do something about this," Mutchie urged. "Let's stop villainizing people and start lifting people in communities and hard places. Let's let every child have a childhood that's full of purpose and potential."