This Stark PSA Shows How Childhood Stress Can Linger as an Adult

Organization aims to reach 25 million millennials

A disheartening start in life. Center For Youth Wellness
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Stress and adversity do not exclusively impact adults. In fact, what is known is that adverse childhood experiences are increasingly common amongst younger generations and can have a severe effect on early brain development, manifesting mental, physical, and behavioral disorders. That’s why the Center for Youth Wellness and Evolution Bureau have launched a campaign to raise awareness about toxic stress and promote early intervention.

“Toxic stress is a health issue where children’s biography becomes their biology. That’s why the primary goal of Stress Health is to help parents recognize the powerful force they can be in preventing and reversing the impacts of toxic stress in their children,” explains Jabeen Yusuf, Director of Marketing and Communications at Center For Youth Wellness and overseeing the Center’s public education initiative.

In a two-minute short film called “The Things We Carry,” we follow a young boy as he initiates what appears to be his morning routine. After brushing his teeth and washing his face, he takes on the hefty task of cleaning up the remnants of what seems to have been a particularly violent night between his parents.

It’s a genuinely daunting image, watching this young boy clear away empty beer bottles and stray pills, making an ice pack for his abused mother, tucking in his likely hungover father, and numbly assessing a new hole in the wall. What is even more disheartening is a look at where he stores the trash bag filled with debris: a closet filled to the ceiling with similar bags, a startling symbol of just how often he has had to navigate this nightmare.

In the second act of the short film, we see the young boy as an adult, waking up next to his wife. He walks to a closet similar to the one from his childhood, still filled with piled garbage bags, though not quite as packed. “When I was a kid I used to think if I could just grow up, if I could just get through, I could leave all this behind,” he narrates in a voiceover. “But that’s not how it works. Everything that happened is still a part of me.”

However, there is still a moment of hope as we then see the man removing a bag and disposing of it outside, just before returning to his happy wife and baby. To end with the image of him actively breaking the cycle of abuse and effectively clearing away some of his baggage is a powerful reminder that we can rise above hardship with the right resources and support.

The campaign will run through 2019 and will rely heavily on digital media, aiming for millennial moms born between 1981 and 1996, who accounted for 82 percent of childbirths in 2016. The short film will be available alongside 15, 30, and 60-second versions on digital platforms as well as the Stress Health website.


Client: Center for Youth Wellness
CEO/Founder: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Executive Director: Chris Padula
Chief Medical Officer/VP of Innovation: Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger
Director of Marketing & Communication: Jabeen Yusuf

Agency: EVB
Chief Creative Officer: John Reid
Chief Operation Officer: James Gassel
Senior Producer: Kimberly Grear
Producer: Tori Robertson
Art Director: Will Hammack
Copywriter: Dave Stich
Production Company: Variable, Brooklyn
Director: Lloyd Lee Choi
Director of Photography (DP): Daniel Stewart
Executive Producer: Tyler Ginter, Alex Friedman
Producer: Justin Realmuto

Editorial: Cartel Edit, Santa Monica
Editor: Andy McGraw, Matt Berardi
Executive Producer: Lauren Bleiweiss
Producers: Greer Bratschie, Ail Reed

Music: Hook & Line
Composer: Bryan Senti

Color Grade: Motion Picture Company
Colorist: Mark Gethin
Producer: Rebecca Boorsman

Sound: One Union Recording
Eben Carr, Matt Wood
Executive Producer: Vickie Sornslip

Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.