The research findings from the Singapore Mental Health Study on the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in Singapore and their association with mental illnesses have great implications on service delivery to children, youth and their families (Adverse childhood experiences raise risk of mental illness later, June 25).
They are also relevant to anyone who has regular interaction with children and youth, such as educators, parents and caregivers, counsellors, social workers and peer supporters.
The findings of this study (and also past studies on ACEs conducted overseas) show that ACEs are common locally.
We also know that trauma can have an impact on one's mental health. Therefore, having an awareness and understanding of trauma, and what we can do to contribute to lowering the prevalence of ACEs and their associated mental health issues in our communities, is important.
Being trauma-informed reflects that awareness and understanding. It requires a mindset shift from "what is wrong with you?" to "what is happening to you?". It adopts an attitude of respect, compassion and giving attention and care.
This takes place in one's interaction with children, youth and their families.
It is important to understand that positive experiences in our relationships can help to heal, while negative experiences can aggravate emotional and psychological problems.
Sometimes, we may not know for sure if the child or young person has had any experiences that are potentially traumatic.
But if we adopt the mentality that all children and youth may have undisclosed trauma histories, we become mindful and pay greater attention to the way we engage and interact with them.
Therefore, the capacity of positive interactions to be soothing and validating should not be underestimated. Support is crucial to the process of recovery.
Clinical Intervention Centre, Boys' Town