This week we have witnessed what can happen when, as a country, we begin to feel our moral foundation and our compassion for the suffering of others slip away.
Images of young children being torn away from parents, and stories of families being torn apart were ingrained into our consciousness. In the commentary below, Dr. April Foreman discusses the very real risk of suicide that is linked to childhood trauma.
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When mental health professionals assess someone for suicide risk, they typically ask about something called adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. Research tells us that ACEs can increase risk of suicide attempt and death, and if you have six or more of ACEs, your risk of a suicide attempt goes up 2,400%.
Just being in one of these detention facilities adds at least three ACEs to a child’s risk factors: a strong likelihood of physical or emotional neglect, parental separation or divorce, and incarceration of a household member. And of course, children in these facilities may have entered with other risk factors already present.
That’s why, once again, I was sad, but not surprised to hear some of the first reports that some children were attempting suicide in these detention facilities. They’ve been away from their families, who mental health professionals would usually turn to as a protective factor against suicide, and they’ve been in facilities where the staff are reported to be under strain. And it’s unclear whether President Trump’s executive order to keep families together will apply to the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents.