Childhood trauma can have a lasting impact on a person. In a Ted Talk, paediatrician Nadine Burke Harris talks about how the repeated stress of abuse, neglect or growing up with parents struggling with mental health issues can have tangible affects on the development of the brain.
High levels of trauma can triple the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, according to Harris. She points out that exposure to early adversity affects “areas like the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure and reward center of the brain that is implicated in substance dependence. It inhibits the prefrontal cortex, which is necessary for impulse control and executive function, a critical area for learning. And on MRI scans, we see measurable differences in the amygdala, the brain’s fear response center.”
She adds, “There are real neurologic reasons why folks exposed to high doses of adversity are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior, and that’s important to know.”
And yet, many of us tend to ignore such trauma and believe its effects will die down as one grows older. To ensure a child’s well-being it is important to acknowledge and understand mental health issues. “The single most important thing that we need today is the courage to look this problem in the face and say, this is real and this is all of us. I believe that we are the movement,” says Harris.
Watch the video here: