Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their lasting impacts are the focus of a large-scale national public awareness campaign launching today, May 13th, 2021. ACEs are difficult, potentially highly stressful events or circumstances that occur during childhood or adolescence and include experiences like abuse, neglect, and having a family member with a mental illness or substance use issue.
An ACE score, ranging from zero to ten, measures these experiences in ten categories. The higher one’s score, the higher the likelihood that one may experience a number of challenges throughout life - from physical and mental health conditions, to educational and career difficulties - even a shortened lifespan.
However, ACEs are not destiny. Research shows that early detection and evidence-based interventions can reduce negative impacts - and prevention is possible. Understanding the story behind one’s score can empower and support people and families, which is what NumberStory.org -- and “The Story of Your Number” campaign -- is designed to do.
The campaign, funded through private philanthropy, is a creation of the ACE Resource Network. With an Advisory Council helmed by California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the ACE Resource Network was established to increase ACEs awareness and education, promote healing and prevention, and to disrupt the transmission of ACEs to future generations.
The impacts of childhood adversity and toxic stress can reach beyond lifespans to affect generations, and beyond individuals to impact communities. They may well be the most important health crises today, and the pandemic has compounded the urgency - increasing adversity for children and intensifying stress in many adults with ACEs. Yet many organizations working to address PACEs struggle to get the support, resources, and attention they need because not enough people know about and understand the issues.
Through incredible efforts by many champions like those among the PACEs Connection community, about half of educators and medical professionals currently recognize the term “ACEs.” However, four out of five adults don’t know about ACEs. The ACE Resource Network recognizes the powerful work being done across sectors in communities large and small in the fields of positive and adverse childhood experiences, and is striving to amplify these efforts with a focus on nationwide public awareness and education. The Number Story campaign encompasses a host of outreach strategies promoting key content, including short videos (like What is a Number Story?), infographics, and accessible scientific information.
Number Story is being launched with help from celebrities and influencers who have pledged to support the campaign. Harnessing the healing power of storytelling, the campaign is partnering with Get Lit, a Los Angeles-based arts education nonprofit created to increase literacy, empower youth, and inspire communities through spoken word poetry. Several youth poets are writing and sharing poetry inspired by an understanding of ACEs. Each poet has been matched with an influencer who will introduce and share the poet’s powerful piece on social media. The series begins the week of May 17th and continues into July.
Number Story is participating as a founding partner of MTV’s first-ever Mental Health Action Day on Thursday, May 20th, offering the campaign’s message and resources to the collective effort encouraging people to take their first steps toward mental health action - for themselves, for their loved ones, or to advocate for systemic changes.
All campaign activities encourage people to visit NumberStory.org, available both in English and Spanish, to explore the impacts of ACEs and other childhood adversity, find practical tools for healing and prevention, learn about the science behind these concepts, and access additional resources.
My work in Research and Strategy with the ACE Resource Network has been informed by many years in PACEs fields, ranging from community outreach and education around child abuse prevention and intervention, to trauma-responsive arts-based programming for children and teens who have experienced significant early adversity. Along the way, and throughout the development of the Number Story campaign, PACEs Connection has been a touchstone of information, resources, and community. The effects of childhood adversity and toxic stress can have a way of making a person feel alone in the world sometimes, regardless of how well we know and understand the science. But PACEs Connection serves as a constant reminder that there are so many reasons - over 50,000! - to hold on to hope and believe in the change we’re making together.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ACE Resource Network, sharing about your organization or community and the challenges and opportunities you’re facing, or discussing possibilities for Number Story partnerships or collaborations - we can’t wait to meet you! Please feel free to contact me at joy@ACEResourceNetwork.org. Follow us on social media @MyNumberStory and #NumberStory #MyNumberStory to stay connected - we’d love to follow you back and help spread the word about the good work you’re doing!
Joy Thomas (she | her | hers)
ACE Resource Network, Research & Strategy