Relationships make all the difference


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                              CONTACT: Michael J. Yates

February 7, 2020                                                                                PHONE: (865) 719-7221


Relationships make all the difference

Head Start Brain Builders


Oak Ridge, TN — Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk who was widely published on topics ranging from spirituality to civil rights and nonviolence, once wrote in response to a friend’s anguish and despair, “it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”  Indeed, safe, stable, and nurturing relationships can make all the difference, especially for children with developing brains.


But why are relationships so important?


Building Strong Brains (BSB) Tennessee is born from the groundbreaking research gathered in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and their effects on life-long health and well-being. The study found that the greater the exposure to things such as domestic violence, addiction, depression in early childhood, the greater the risk for later-life problems such as higher risk for chronic illnesses, poverty, depression and addictive behaviors.


“Trauma in childhood can lead to poor health in adulthood,” says ACE Awareness Foundation Director Ellen Rolfes. “When children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity at home, it creates toxic stress, which changes their brains – literally.”


Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships promote healthy attachment and literally shape how the brain gets built, establishing either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for the development and behavior that follows. A strong foundation in the early years increases the probability of positive outcomes and can be a powerful influencer in mitigating the impact of toxic stress.


The recent 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Ridgeview, Methodist Medical Center, and a number of key community stakeholders identified Toxic Stress as one of several health priorities for Anderson County. Promoting safe, stable, nurturing relationships at home, in schools, and in the community can help prevent and mitigate adverse childhood experiences and reduce the harmful effects of toxic stress exposure. This good news is a promising approach to helping our community’s children lead productive, healthy lives, while ensure the future prosperity of communities.


Locally, Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services provides ACEs training to the community and schools through two certified BSB trainers, Amy Olson and Michael Yates. As Amy Olson said, “At Ridgeview, we’re committed to being part of the culture shift in how we understand the impact of trauma on the developing child from ‘What’s wrong with you’ to ‘What’s happened to you.’”


Children who experience safe, stable, nurturing relationships with adults are more likely to have a strong foundation for healthy brain development and resilience. Merton was right, relationships do, indeed, make all the difference. On May 1st, Ridgeview will be hosting its 6th Annual Ride 4 Hope as part of mental health awareness month. A focal point of the event will be community awareness about the lasting impact of ACEs and the importance of our collective efforts to mitigate its harm by investing wisely in children and families and the important role safe, stable, nurturing relationships have in shaping a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship.


Photo: Amy Olson and Michael Yates are trained facilitators in BSB TN.


Michael Yates is Director of Development for Ridgeview

Ridgeview is a private, not for profit community mental health center with locations in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, Roane, and Scott counties.