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The Impact of Resilience on Mental Health

The Impact of Resilience on Mental Health, Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back when something difficult occurs, rather than falling apart or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance use or self-harm. This inner strength is also a predictor of a person’s ability to navigate mental health struggles or avoid them entirely. At Highland Hospital Behavioral Health in Charleston, West Virginia, resilience is a tool we help clients develop as they navigate their recovery journey.

What Resilience Looks Like

As Author Mary Anne Radmacher once said, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is a quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” It’s not necessary for someone to be entirely fearless or abundantly vocal in their resolve in order to be resilient. It’s much more of an internal process than an external one.

Resilience does require mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility. Resilient people still experience adversity like bullying, grief, and trauma, and they also still feel difficult emotions like fear, anger, and sadness. However, they are more likely to do some things that other people may not:

  • Reach out to their support system, whether this means friends, family, a faith community, or a support group
  • Allow past lessons to inform future decisions without repeating prior mistakes or feeling like a failure about things that didn’t work out
  • Find meaning in everyday things by setting and achieving goals that are meaningful to themselves
  • Keep hope for the future and recognize that challenges don’t have to be permanent barriers
  • Take care of themselves:
    • Eat healthily
    • Get enough sleep
    • Make time for leisure
    • Practice stress management techniques
    • Exercise regularly
  • Take action when they have a problem, instead of ignoring it
  • Show compassion for themselves when they make a mistake and not berate themselves for being human

Resilience in Children

Studies of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have found that the difficult experiences people survive before they reach adulthood can have a huge impact on their physical and mental health in later life and even impact how long they live. Resilience is a way to fight back against ACEs. Pediatric resilience may look different from adult resilience, as it centers not only on the child but also their caregivers and their entire family unit:

  • Caregiver knowledge and application of parenting skills
  • Close relationships between the child and caring adults
  • A well-supported family
  • Problem-solving and emotional regulation skills
  • Parental resilience
  • A sense of purpose

When these supports are present for a child and their family, children tend to feel safer much more quickly following painful life experiences, which helps to neutralize the impact of the event.

The Nature Versus Nurture of Resilience

Research has demonstrated that some people are naturally more inclined to be resilient than others, but also that the skills and resources that make people resilient can be learned through intentional practice. Some ways this can be accomplished include:

  • Finding purpose in helping others
  • Being proactive about managing difficult situations 
  • Developing goals and moving toward them, even in small ways, to enhance confidence 
  • Identifying ways that you have grown as a result of a painful or stressful experience, instead of simply seeing it as an event that caused harm
  • Keeping everyday annoyances and disappointments in perspective by considering how much impact they will have on your long-term plans
  • Becoming more accepting of change by seeing it as a way for improvements to occur in your life
  • Recognizing that your choices have consequences and then acting accordingly

Specific Benefits of Resilience

Researchers have linked resilience to several positive outcomes, including:

  • Lower levels of impulsivity and depression in patients with bipolar disorder
  • Lower levels of suicidal ideation in people with schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression
  • Decreased levels of PTSD among people who experience trauma
  • Increased quality of life among people with mental health diagnoses
  • Decreased levels of depression and substance misuse in natural disaster survivors
  • Decreased levels of suicidal ideation among Veterans with PTSD and/or major depression

Ways to Bolster Resilience

Not only can clients and clinicians work together to increase a patient’s resilience, but communities can also build resilience of their members by offering such resources as:

  • Support for parents with infants
  • Early childhood intervention programs
  • Workplace and unemployment programs, especially for Veterans
  • Activity programs for seniors
  • School-based interventions

At Highland Hospital Behavioral Health, we support our patients in finding their own unique ways to develop resilience. We partner with each client we serve to build care plans that are customized to their lives, goals, and needs.

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