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What is Trauma?

What is trauma?

Trauma is the emotional shock that follows a very stressful event or a physical injury. It is important to understand that a traumatic event is not an isolated event perceived equally by those who experience it. In other words, what is traumatic to one individual may not necessarily have the same impact on another person. Traumatic events can be especially damaging for youth who are still in the stages of neurological development since a youths’ brain is not fully developed until their mid-20’s. Traumatic situations youth are exposed to or experience, can be labeled as “Adverse Childhood Experiences” or “ACES”.  ACES come in many forms, from physical and mental abuse to neglect and household dysfunction (such as substance use, family incarceration, divorce, or mental illness for example). There are not only serious psychological effects of ACEs on young minds, but there are also the long-term health complications that can come from recurring exposure to ACEs.


Youth Who Experience Four or More ACEs:

  • 10–12x greater risk for Intravenous Drug Use and Attempted Suicide

  • 2–3x greater risk for developing Heart Disease and Cancer

  • 32x more likely to have Learning and Behavioral Problems

  • 8 out of 10 Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. correlate with exposure to four or more ACEs


As seen above, ACES have a tremendous impact on future exposure to mental health concerns, physical health complications, and substance use disorders. By being aware of how trauma affects individuals and working together to reduce the prevalence of ACES and other traumatic incidences, we can begin implementing protective factors, increase empathy, prevent future exposure to trauma, and help create a community in which every youth and adult thrive.

Defining Trauma Fact Sheet 

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