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Childhood trauma levels revealed

Wednesday, 4th October, 2017 5:54pm

Significant levels of childhood trauma have been reported in a survey on users in a Cork homeless shelter.

The results of the new survey on Cork Simon service users showed that a significant majority of the users suffered verbal and physical abuse at home during their childhood.

It also found that more than one in three suffered sexual abuse during their childhood and one-quarter experienced physical neglect while two-thirds endured emotional neglect

More than 70 per cent lived with someone with an addiction issue, more than half lived with someone with mental health difficulties, half grew up in one parent families and close to a third grew up in households where a family member was in prison.

Four in ten witnessed domestic violence towards their mother, the report found.

The recent study, ‘Cork Simon Community: Moving Towards Trauma Informed Care. A Model of Research and Practice’, by Dr Sharon Lambert and Graham Gill-Emerson, examined the level of trauma among Cork Simon service users and how their services could better respond to people who have experienced trauma.

Trauma among Cork Simon service users was measured through the administration of the ACE questionnaire to 50 people supported by the Adult Homeless Integrated Team (AHIT) - a HSE funded multidisciplinary team operating from Cork Simon’s emergency shelter among other homelessness services in the city.

Dr Sharon Lambert told the Cork Independent the more trauma you had as a child, the more impact it will have on your life. She explained that those who experience trauma often get stuck between a flight or fight mode. She said: “This means that they are unable, not unwilling, to do the very ordinary everyday things like turn up for appointments or apply for a house.

"They are not able to navigate themselves through the system they are in.”

The ACE questionnaire was born from a ground-breaking US public health study involved more than 17,000 people.

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and these traumatic events, experienced before the age of 18, have been shown to have long-term negative impacts on health and well-being.

The survey on Cork Simon users found that significant levels of childhood trauma were reported and that these levels were notably higher than those experienced by the general population in the original ACE study.

The demographics of the 50 people who took part in the ACE survey were varied.

The average age of participants was 31 years, with the ages range from 20-45 while 77.6 per cent were men and 20.4 per cent were women.

50 per cent had been homeless less than five years, 30 per cent between five and nine years and 20 per cent had been homeless for ten years or more. Current accommodation type was a mix of sleeping rough, emergency, unstable and stable accommodation.

The survey found that 100 per cent of Cork Simon service users who completed the questionnaire had experienced one or more ACEs.

More than 77 per cent experienced four or more ACEs.

A score of four or more ACEs is known to put an individual at a significantly increased risk of poor health and well-being.

By comparison, 67 per cent of the general public in the original ACE study had experienced one or more ACE and only 12.5 per cent scored four or more.

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