Documentary Review: Resilience - The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope
Not So Popular's Catherine Bridgman takes a look at the Ground-Breaking new film on the Biology of Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences and its links to major illnesses. The child may not remember, but as we are to discover the body does...
Robert Redford’s son, James Redford, takes a bold step into the world of trauma with this documentary on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include factors such as children whose parents had an addiction or children who have been sexually assaulted, and their effects on people’s mental and physical health, both during youth and into adulthood. Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope is a powerful venture into a public health crisis that was initially seen as pseudoscience masquerading as medicine, until a study revealed the prevalence and extent of the problem.
The study is over a decade old now but hasn’t made the kind of impact that it could. The second half of Resilience delves into the American neighbourhoods affected by low life expectancies and childhood delinquency to see what they’re doing about the ‘toxic stress’ epidemic at the heart of the problem. What the documentary finds is doctors who are acknowledging the epidemic and youth workers who want to find ways to attack the problem head-on.
One classroom shows a teacher confronting difficult issues directly by sitting the children down and saying ‘no child should be touched in the private parts’ and making sure that they are helping children find the tools to express when these traumas are happening to them. This section of the film not only provides the emotional impact that leaves the viewer invested, but it brings us away from the researchers, the scientists and put us into the real world to help us see what can practically be done about the issue.
With the recent release of Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why’, the issue of childhood trauma is one on everybody’s lips. What Resilience attempts to illustrate is how we tend to forget that the emotional strength many of us are able to exercise as adults isn’t innate – we develop it over time with the kind of love and support that helps us to adapt to the difficulties of life. But not everyone grows up around that kind of support. We forget how vulnerable, exposed and ill-equipped we were at that age to deal with stressors, particularly traumas such as those listed in the study.
These ideas aren’t exactly new – Freud was pretty obsessed with the idea of childhood traumas being the key to unlocking reasons behind mental health issues. However, Resilience breathes new life into the issue by putting it in real life terms and showing us what can be done preventatively, not just after the damage is done. Redford has made a moving and informative piece that makes an urgent point. Not to be missed.