Jane Hetherington is a mental health specialist who lives in Ramsgate. Here she talks about a new training programme in Thanet focused on improved adolescent mental health:
“As a mental health professional and town councillor with an interest in improving services for young people, I was delighted to join the ACE training this week to understand how the ACE programme is progressing.
ACE is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experience which relates to the difficulties evidenced by young people who have experienced early childhood trauma. The trauma could include violence, coercion, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence and inhumane treatment. It could also be an experience of neglect, bereavement, being a young career, an absence of proper nurturing, or difficulties relating to their parent’s mental health or drug and alcohol issues. ACE programmes have been implemented in areas throughout the U.K. and we have been keen to introduce the ambassador training to Thanet as part of a focus on improved adolescent mental health.
Currently 26 clinicians from a variety of children’s focused services in Thanet are completing the ACE programme at the Corner hub in Newington. The ACE programme is part of an exciting, new, trauma informed system that is being introduced to young people’s services throughout Kent but is particularly relevant here in Thanet.
In Thanet we have the highest levels of poverty in Kent and this detrimentally effects our adolescents and their mental health. We also have a high number of looked after children who have been taken into care because of difficulties in their family home. Thanet has additionally a history of substance misuse and complex mental health issues. This has resulted in neglect and trauma being passed from parents to children and impacting on the child’s ability to achieve and thrive.
4 ACEs result in a far higher likelihood of an adolescent experiencing;
high risk drinking
early unintended teenage pregnancy
the use of cannabis
the use of crack cocaine or heroin
being a victims of violence
being a perpetrator of violence
Those with 4 ACE’s or more have problems relaxing, or being close to others, it may affect clear thinking and an ability to problem solve, or making up one’s mind, not feeling useful or a sense of pessimism and despair.
The aim of the programme is to identify young people experiencing trauma as early as possible and to open up a conversation with the young person. It is through the conversation and an early intervention that children will be able to speak about what is troubling them and services and support can be put in place as soon as possible to assist. The earlier this help occurs the better the outcome and all importantly the happier the child.