One of the many yard signs supporting resilience.

“Hard things happen – but these things do not define us.” This is one of the messages crafted by 15 Oxford Hills community members in an effort to raise awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the importance of building resilience – the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges. These 15 individuals include local school teachers, business owners, healthcare providers, artists, social service providers, and parents. Working together for over a year, the group created a messaging campaign that will spread across local communities in the weeks and months to come in the form of roadside signs, banners, posters, signs in shop windows, and place mats at local restaurants.

What are ACEs and why are they important?

ACEs include a variety of hurtful experiences that happen to people before they’re 18 years old. They’re incredibly common. These things do not define us, but they can affect us throughout our lives. Many of us know this from personal experience. In simplest terms, the hurtful things that happen to us when we’re young – experiences such as abuse, neglect, substance use in the home, mental illness in the home, domestic violence, a family member in prison, parents/guardians separated or divorced, bullying, racism, and others – are common and can have lasting impacts on our health and well being.

The more hurts (or ACEs) that have occurred, the greater the impact may be. ACEs studies, performed many times over the past 20 years, continue to confirm this relationship and show that ACEs are widespread and common in our society, regardless of income, skin color, education, etc.

In 2019, 21% of Maine’s high school students reported having four or more ACEs. As a person’s ACEs score increases, so does their risk for poor health and wellness. Compared to a person with an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 is four times as likely to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD, a serious heart disease), four and a half times as likely to be depressed, twice as likely to have severe obesity, and 11 times as likely to use intravenous (IV) drugs.

Even more important than ACEs, is resilience, or the ability to bounce back from life’s hardships.

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We can’t prevent all of the hard things from happening but we can build resilience among ourselves and our children. Recent research tells us that positive experiences reduce the impact of ACEs on our health. Healthy relationships are essential for building resilience. Children need a trusted adult to provide a loving and supportive environment so they can grow and thrive.

Just one positive relationship can go a long way toward building resilience – whether this person is a friend or family member, neighbor, teacher, coach, doctor, priest or pastor, or someone else. Other ways to build resilience include spending time in nature, helping others, and taking time for self care. You can find out more about resilience and how to build it at www.resiliencematterstome.com.

“Hard things happen – Make a connection – Connecting helps us rebuild – Love. Support. Connect.” Look for these messages around your community and get involved in the campaign! Visit www.resiliencematterstome.com to find out more or reach out to Brendan Schauffler [email protected] or Emma DayBranch [email protected]. We can all build resilience in ourselves, and help to build it amongst our loved ones and community too.

Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks we will bring you the personal stories of resilience from our community.

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