College is hard enough as it is, from paying for books, getting to class on time, to just trying to balance life and a higher education. But what if, on top of all that, students also had psychological issues, and what if they didn’t even know they had these psychological issues, and even more distressing what if they didn’t do anything to cause these issues. For at least 64 percent of the general population this suffering is real, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, over half of the population suffer effects from Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACE’s. An ACE is a traumatic event or series of events that a child experiences before 18, such as emotional and physical abuse, living with a mentally ill or depressed family member, or other traumatic events. A child who experiences two ACE’s is twice as likely to attempt suicide, is four times more likely to consider themselves an alcoholic, and is three times more likely to use drugs. A person who has experienced four ACE’s is 12 times more likely to attempt suicide and five times more likely to suffer from depression. People who experienced six ACE’s on average die 20 years earlier, according to the CDC.

Emery Smith, a UCC sociology professor and researcher, has compiled a literature review on  epigenetics, the theory that nongenetic things can influence a person’s, an idea that relates to ACE’s. Smith and other researchers, hypothesize that the theory of epigenetics applies to ACE’s, meaning that students whose parents experienced ACE’s may also suffer or exhibit many of the effects even if they have not experienced any ACE’s their own life. Generational epigenetics cannot yet be proven, but there is overwhelming evidence, according to Smith. The April 2018 edition of Pediatrics reported, “For each maternal ACE there was an 18 percent increase in the risk for a suspected developmental delay.” Paternal ACE’s created similar risks. 

The treatment to ACE’s effects, regardless if they are passed on or experienced, is Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. According to Ben Marin Psy.D, “CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behavior by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.” For people don’t have access to a CBT therapist, there are many books on how to self teach CBT such as “Feel Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David D. Burns.

Because the effects of ACE’s are known and treatable, Smith’s goal is to get the word out about them and their treatment. Eventually Smith says he wants to conduct a study on campus to find the students who are most likely to have experienced ACE’s and provide the resources and tool necessary to not only treat them but also help them better succeed here at UCC. For more information about ACE’s, see https://www.rawhide.org/blog/wellness/aces-child-trauma/ or https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html