A new report finds that adverse childhood experiences can cause health problems, mental illness and drug problems adulthood

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finds 1 in 6 adults in New Jersey and across the nation experienced four or more types of such experiences in childhood. At least five of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with these experiences.

Rush Russell, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, called the study “one of the most powerful public health reports in the last 50 years."

Adverse childhood experiences are indicators of severe traumatic incidents that happen to children. They include child abuse, having a parent with mental illness or living through a divorce.

The report finds that these experiences are responsible for significant increases in heart and lung disease, alcohol and mental health problems, unemployment, marital problems and suicide.

Russell said that preventing adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, could reduce depression cases by 44% and reduce other major health problems by at least 15%.

He also noted preventing these experiences could cut smoking rates by a third and heavy drinking by 24%.

Russell said that as a first step, parents should be aware of the way they speak with their children because this can work toward eliminating adverse experiences they have that can lead to future problems.

Russell said that the brain is incredibly resilient and “there’s a lot that can be done to strengthen the resilience of children" who have experienced ACEs.

"ACEs don’t always predict the future," he said.

Christine Norbut Beyer, the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, believes that more could be done to raise awareness about ACEs .

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Beyer said her department is "focusing more on outcomes and on helping families heal and recover from trauma and ACEs.”

State Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, the chairman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, has introduced a resolution that calls on the governor to develop strategies to reduce children’s exposure to ACEs in New Jersey.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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