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The Deepest Well: Childhood Stress and its Consequences

Updated: May 23, 2022

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of

Childhood Trauma and Adversity

DR. NADINE BURKE HARRIS is the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point. She serves as an expert adviser for the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail initiative and Governor Jerry Brown’s Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force.

Mariner Books; Reprint edition (Jan. 23 2018)

As the pandemic makes us aware, health is a public and a social issue. For a poignant and fascinating read on how an environment of toxic stress adversely impacts children’s health, read Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ The Deepest Well. In it, she tells about how the extreme physical symptoms she saw in her young patients in the San Francisco Bay Area were just the outer manifestations of the troubling environments they inhabited and talks about pioneering a medical practice that looks beyond the physical symptoms to the life circumstances that shape children for well or ill. Fixing a kid means fixing a family and a community. It is a practice that takes time, listening, and patience. It is a practice of examining the whole when it is much easier to treat the parts.

Two very helpful quotes from The Deepest Well:

Dysregulation of the stress response has a profound impact on immune and inflammatory responses because virtually all the components of the immune system are influenced by stress hormones. Chronic exposure to stress hormones can suppress the immune system in some ways and activate it in others, and unfortunately none of it’s good.

When a four-year-old experiences chronic stress and adversity, some genes that regulate how the brain, immune system, and hormonal systems respond to stress get turned on and others get turned off, and unless there is some intervention, they'll stay that way, changing the way the child’s body works and, in some cases, leading to disease and early death.

Looking for authoritative information on Adverse Childhood Experiences and their impact on lifelong health and opportunity? See


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