Help Durham kids bounce back from adverse experiences

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Everyone experiences ups and downs in childhood, but research is now showing that certain traumatic incidents stay with us our whole lives, even if we don’t remember them. Fred Johnson, Vice Chief of the Division of Community Health at Duke School of Medicine, is on a mission to educate the Durham community about trauma so that we can help one another in the healing process.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) is a category of chronic trauma that includes violence, neglect, and household dysfunction like addiction or divorce. Research by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, laid out in her book The Deepest Well, explains that the stress caused by these factors is much more than a passing emotion.

When these traumas go unprocessed, they can become imprinted on a child’s biological systems, actually affecting the development of their brain and body, and putting the child’s future at risk. Studies show that ACES can lead to at greater risk of disease, homelessness, prison, and even premature death.

Johnson has set a target of educating 9,000 Durhamites about ACES, “so that we can begin to see the world through a different lens,” he says.

Interested in learning about ACES and receiving training from the Duke Division of Community Health? Click here to contact them, or email

The idea is to build community resilience—the ability to recover from difficult experiences—and help Durham become a Trauma Informed Community.

The Division of Community Health will offer free screenings of “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope” at public libraries around Durham in September. This documentary film explains the science behind ACES in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

Some educators in Durham Public Schools have already had a chance to see the film. “I’m convinced this could be a game-changer in understanding our students,” said James Hopkins, principal of Lakewood Elementary.

“All educators should see this,” said Sandra Erhardt, EC Facilitator.

“Resilience” screening schedule:

Partners involved in this effort:

Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center
Duke Division of Community Health
Durham County
Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
Together for Resilient Youth
Exchange Family Center
Lincoln Community Health Center

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