A film directed by Robert Redford’s son, James, is to be used by the Western Trust to help promote its Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership.
The campaign focuses on the importance of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the impact that these can have on later adult life.
The Trust’s director of women’s and children’s services, Kieran Downey, presented the plan to Derry City and Strabane District Council’s health and community committee this week.
“Our plan is for the Western area to be the first ACE and trauma-informed area in Northern Ireland by 2020,” he said.
“Scotland is well on the way to becoming the first full country to achieve this and we want to be close behind.”
The Trust has secured the rights to use James Redford’s film ‘Resilience’ as part of the campaign.
It examines the impact ACEs have on children in the adult lives and the ‘toxic stress’ that they create.
“Ten different ACEs have been identified and people who have experienced three or more and much more likely to suffer adversity in later life,” said Kieran.
“Toxic stress is like putting acid on your brain - it swamps everything.
“People are more likely to suffer heart problems, diabetes or cancer in later life and the pattern is then set to repeat itself with their children and we need to break that cycle.
“People who do not have an inbuilt resistance or a trusted adult in their lives are the ones who suffer the most.
“I believe that this is the greatest public health threat facing this country.
“By being ACE aware and trauma-informed we will be moving from asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ and blaming, shaming and punishing to asking ‘What happened to you and offer understanding, nurturing and healing instead?”
In the Western Trust area, the number of mothers smoking during pregnancy is rising, up from 14 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2015.
Domestic abuse offence rates are also on the increase and the western area has consistently higher rates than the Northern Ireland average.
And the Trusts says that one in three children were living in absolute low- income poverty in 2015, the highest percentage in Northern Ireland.
“We have three obsessions in this campaign,” said Kieran.
“That every child has the best start in life.
“To promote the safety of our children and young people.
“And to work together to include the voice of children and young people.”