Childhood Traumatic Stress: A Community Concern

Wheelock@Worcester MSW Program Co-Sponsors Screening of Documentary Resilience

The Wheelock@Worcester Master of Social Work program, along with the Worcester Department of Public Health and several local nonprofit organizations, co-sponsored a film screening in January as part of continuing efforts to support the community’s youngest members and build a more resilient and connected city.

Resilience Film Screening
Wheelock@Worcester students help facilitate discussions after the Resilience film screening

The partnership hosted 278 people for a screening of the 2016 documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope. The film is a fascinating study of how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can be linked to destructive behavior and medical diseases later in life. It prominently features researcher and practitioner Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, who came to Worcester last September to discuss her findings. Although the movie deals with heavy topics such as childhood neglect, abuse, and other traumatic experiences, it ultimately delivers an optimistic message based on positive outcomes demonstrated by investing in mental health treatment for children as early as possible and in educating and supporting their families.

The movie event, held at Worcester Technical High School, was preceded by informal networking and a light meal provided by Broadway Restaurant Catering.  Opening remarks were presented by Ann T. Lisi, CEO and President of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and Amy Ebbeson, Site Coordinator for Wheelock@Worcester and Program Manager of Worcester Addresses Childhood Trauma (ACTs). After the film, Wheelock students facilitated sharing by audience members of comments and reactions, followed by closing remarks from Dr. Heather Forkey, MD, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, Division of Child Protection.

The film was in part a follow-up to past research on childhood trauma led primarily by Dr. Laurie Ross, Ph.D., an Associate Professor at Clark University. Dr. Ross engages in community-based action research projects in Worcester on topics such as homelessness and youth and gang violence. Her work led to the creation of Worcester ACTs, a key organization whose work includes the development of treatment protocols for Worcester children who have been exposed to trauma.

The community viewing of the movie, along with the speakers and the audience participation, are helping Worcester to become a more trauma-informed city, and made for an educational, stimulating, and inspiring evening for all those in attendance.

For those interested in screening the film, the WEC The Worcester Education Collaborative has several copies for loan and the Worcester Public Library Foundation plans to purchase a copy.

Steven Baggish is Academic Support Coordinator for the Wheelock@Worcester Master of Social Work program within Wheelock College’s School of Social Work, Leadership, and Youth Advocacy.