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Sunderland screens US documentary on childhood trauma

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Published on 09 November 2017

Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope
Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope

A highly acclaimed US documentary that explores medical developments linking traumatic childhood experiences to health conditions like heart disease, gets its first screening in the North of England at our University.

CEL&T (Children Who Have Experienced Loss and Trauma) working in partnership with Adopter Voice and the University’s School of Social Sciences, will present a series of community screenings of Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, a 60-minute documentary, directed and produced by James Redford, son of Hollywood legend Robert Redford.

The film explores the science of extremely stressful experiences in childhood that can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behaviour – known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The film also looks at the new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress, now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression.

Experts and practitioners profiled in Resilience reveal how they’re using cutting-edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.

Resilience will be showcased for the first time in the North at the David Puttnam Media Centre, St Peter’s Campus, as part of a CPD event. The costs for the first screening on Friday November 17, at 9.15am are being met by Adopter Voice, part of Adoption UK, and a Department of Education funded project. This is a closed screening for any adopter in the region or those working within Adoption Teams.

The film will be followed by a talk (Understanding ACEs for adopters, adoptees and those supporting adoptive family units) hosted by Dr Wendy Thorley of CEL&T and Scott Casson-Rennie of Adoption UK, with those attending receiving a CPD certificate. CEL&T are members of CPD UK for CPD events.

There will be two further screenings on December 1 and 8 which are open events for anyone who wishes to attend, including professionals from Education, Health and Social Care alongside the public. Sunderland students interested in this research area are also welcome. There is a cover charge of £5 for the December screenings, those attending will receive CPD certification for this event.

The University is hosting the film as part of CEL&T’s work supporting children who have experienced loss and trauma. The CPD events will provide understanding around ACEs which is now very much at the forefront of developing support for children and families.

Lindey Cookson, Principal Lecturer/ Team Leader for Childhood Studies, said: “Resilience is a fascinating documentary that explains not only the facts and figures about ACE's, but also offers insights and potential solutions to help children and prevent serious medical consequences later in life.

“We are honoured to be able to host the screenings, which reflect the excellent work that has been going on around adverse childhood trauma and how it impacts on children’s learning and development within our Childhood Studies and Education programmes for a number of years. This really is cutting-edge research.

“As a CPD event, this is also an excellent opportunity for our students to network with other professionals and is a real addition to what they’re studying within the programmes we run.”

The community screenings have also received praise by National Adoption Advisor Al Coates, who hosts regular sessions to staff and students, and has praised our collaborative work as ‘very positive and proactive’. NHS Scotland are providing screenings across Scotland whilst further South reviews see the documentary as highly recommended and essential viewing.

Dr Wendy Thorley said: “Developing understanding of the long term impact of ACEs is essential in any public health arena, but also for anyone working with or supporting children, young people and families; particularly during a time when mental health concerns for children and young people is increasing.”

To participate in the Adopter Voice event, register here

To participate in the open events in December register here

Places are limited and will be reserved on a first-come first-served basis.


RESILIENCE chronicles the birth of a new movement among paediatricians, therapists, educators and communities, who are using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease.

The original research was controversial, but the findings revealed the most important public health findings of a generation.

RESILIENCE is a one-hour documentary that delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the birth of a new movement to treat and prevent Toxic Stress. Now understood to be one of the leading causes of everything from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression, extremely stressful experiences in childhood can alter brain development and have lifelong effects on health and behaviour.

However, as experts and practitioners profiled in RESILIENCE are proving, what’s predictable is preventable. The physicians, educators, social workers and communities are daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse and neglect. And they’re using cutting edge science to help the next generation break the cycles of adversity and disease.

Director James Redford’s statement:

“When I started hearing about the emerging science of adversity and childhood stress, my mind was blown. High “doses” of stress during childhood get into our bodies, change our brains, and lead to lifelong health and social problems—everything from domestic violence and substance abuse to heart disease and cancer. Who knew that if your parents got a divorce when you were growing up, you have a significantly higher risk of heart disease? Or that if your mother had a drinking problem, your own risk for depression in adulthood is much higher? The science of “Toxic Stress” and the major findings that came out of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study should be common knowledge public health information. But the movement is still in its infancy.

“We started making RESILIENCE to make this science digestible and relevant to everyone, and to showcase some of the brave and creative individuals who are putting that science into action. There is a growing group of paediatricians, educators and communities who are proving that cycles of disease and adversity can be broken.

“In the United States, we spend trillions of dollars every year treating preventable diseases, rather than intervening before a patient is sick and suffering. We have a zero-tolerance, “suck it up” culture that judges and punishes bad behaviour, rather than trying to understand and treat the root cause of that behaviour. But now, with this new body of scientific knowledge available, we are learning there are better ways of dealing with these seemingly intractable problems.

“RESILIENCE has a companion film: PAPER TIGERS follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Washington State who radically changed its approach to student discipline, with radically positive results. Our goal with these two projects is to make “Toxic Stress” and “ACEs” house-hold terms, so that individuals and communities are empowered to improve the health and wellbeing of this and future generations.”