Panel discussion

A panel discussion followed a screening of "Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope."

While stress in children and parents can be difficult to identify until it’s too late, a relatively new test seeks to change that.

The ACE test, which can reveal the level of emotional duress and what can be done to stabilize it, was the subject of a discussion drawing scores of people to The Colonial Theatre on Main Street in Keene Thursday night.

ACE is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Audience members first watched a movie, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope,” directed by James Redford, actor Robert Redford’s son. The movie focused on young people’s stress, how to recognize it and how to cope with it.

A discussion led by an 11-person panel seated on the stage followed, with conversation addressing the dangers of stress, especially in children, and how to gauge the level of stress by way of the ACE test.

ACE also refers to a research study conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Kaiser and CDC websites. Participants were recruited to the study between 1995 and 1997 and have been in long-term follow-up programs for health outcomes. The study has demonstrated an association between adverse childhood experiences, again ACEs, and health and social problems as an adult, according to the websites.

The shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday was touched upon during Thursday’s discussion. A former student at the school has been charged with shooting and killing 17 people, in what is the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, according to news reports.

However, the Keene event’s focus was how to identify stress and then how to reduce it, according to Cissy White, Northeast community facilitator for the ACEs Connection Network.

The group is a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, Calif. The organization’s primary purpose is, through a grassroots social media platform, to use information to support people, organizations, and communities to prevent, address and heal trauma, White said.

“We want to make every parent aware of this test because it can be tremendously beneficial,” White said. “You don’t have to feel alone anymore.”

The ACE test asks questions covering 10 types of childhood trauma before the age of 18, according to the ACEs Connection Network. Those questions include, “Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often … swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?” A “yes” answer gives a person a one, and a “no” answer gives that person a zero. There are nine more questions with similar themes and the same scoring method.

As a person’s ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems, according to White.

“The important thing to remember is ACE is a guide,” White said. “Once you know your stress level, you can begin to change it, and so can your parent. This test also can be taken by the parent and can help the parent change, as well.”

Those in attendance agreed.

“These kinds of information sessions are very important,” Erik Murphy, 60, of Keene said. “It has a huge positive effect on the public’s education. It’s good. Just look at the crowd.”

The Colonial has an 888-seating capacity with 42 seats that can be added, if need be, according to its website. The theater appeared to be near capacity in the orchestra and mezzanine levels.

Jocelyn Goldblatt, co-manager of Monadnock Thrives, a new area chapter of ACEs Connection, presented the event’s opening and introductory remarks, saying she was frightened Thursday night.

“I just learned two days ago that my husband was let go, and now I’m having to deal with this new reality,” Goldblatt told the crowd as she stood alone on the empty Colonial stage. “I’m terrified for my family, but I’m dealing with the stress. You have to.”

Goldblatt’s 11-year-old daughter, Sophia, was on hand to offer her support, as was Sophia’s grandmother Peggy Hewinson.

“I’m here for my mother,” Sophia said. “My mom is why I’m here.”

Steve Whitmore can be reached at 355-8567, or swhitmore @keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @swhitmoreKS.