For example, after the loss of a loved one someone may experience clinical depression and another individual may feel sad for a while and resume his/her daily activities shortly after. As it relates to child development, it seems that all children have some capacity to deal with adversity, but some have more than others and are thus more resilient while others are more vulnerable in difficult times.
It is evident that some individuals are better able to adapt and cope in the face of adversities and life stressors in comparison to others and such individual differences highlight the concept of resilience. Resilience is basically adapting in the face of adversities and knowing how to cope with stressors effectively. It is an interesting yet unclear concept which has attracted the attention of many mental health professionals including myself due to its initially perceived influence and possible implications for intervention and prevention policy and programme strategies.
Although it is difficult to determine whether individuals are more resilient due to their genetic predispositions to resist adversities or due to other environmental protective factors around them, resilience may be the essence of individual differences influenced by genetic and environmental interactions. How are resilient people more capable of dealing with life stressors?
Resilient people are able to utilise their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges such as losing a job, financial problems, illness and natural disasters, just to name a few.
Although resilience does not eliminate stress or erase problems, it provides people with the tools to tackle their issues appropriately. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient and they include a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Resilience is an existent construct in my opinion; however, it is most likely influenced by a large number of interactions and interconnections such as genetic, environmental and psychological factors.
By assessing resilience from an ecological point of view one can determine which protective factors make us more resilient and better able to cope with adversities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) “protective factors are individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviours that reduce the effects of stressful life events. These factors also increase an individual’s ability to avoid risks or hazards, and promote social and emotional competence to thrive in all aspects of life, now and in the future”.
In conclusion, I truly believe that protective factors can be viewed as an aid to resilience because the more protective factors one is surrounded with the better one is able to cope with adversities and life stressors.
Sara Hassan is an experienced mental health consultant/psychologist with an MHS in Mental Health from Johns Hopkins University. She has extensive experience in violence and bullying especially within school settings, having worked as a violence prevention consultant in Washington DC and Las Vegas. She is currently working at Al Harub Medical Centre.