Cathy Giessel is a lifelong Alaskan, registered nurse, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, healthcare services volunteer and board member of Alaska Behavioral Health. To punctuate the gravity of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (like Childhood Domestic Violence) in her community, in a recent Anchorage Daily News opinion piece, she likens their impact to a torrential river sweeping up children who experience them

Giessel targets her efforts at ACEs in her home state of Alaska, where the child maltreatment, abuse and sexual abuse numbers are higher than the national average. Some of the most startling statistics are below: 

  • The child maltreatment rate is 69% higher here than the national average
  • Almost 50% of substantiated abuse occurs in kids ages 0-4
  • Alaskan kids are 56% more likely to be abused than kids nationally — 14.5 out of every 1,000 kids in Alaska versus 9.5 nationally.

The good news is, there has also been a recent wave of awareness of ACEs, fueled by the Covid pandemic, which has resulted in the systemic increase of mental health services in the state and subsequent reduction in wait lists. Help for children impacted by ACEs is becoming more readily available to help curb the dire impact. 

The pandemic, though crippling, has brought to light the severity and impact of mental health issues, as well as the need for support and connection with others – not only in Alaska but nationwide. This has been driving an increased understanding of how ACEs impact mental health as well as ways to increase resiliency, promote well-being and show children, adults, and families that it is okay to seek help in the community if struggling with mental health. Local and regional organizations like Alaska Behavioral Health have worked hard to reduce waiting lists and are seeing more children with complex trauma, including PTSD much more quickly. School districts have also increased services by providing greater access to volunteers and clinicians.

The full article, “Behavioral health means resilience and well-being” in the Anchorage Daily News, can be viewed here: