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Resilience has gained a great deal of attention over the past few years as our mental health has come to the the forefront of our daily lives. Despite this, resilience is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” While this definition is useful, it does not reflect the complex nature of resilience. 

Over the past decade, our understanding of resilience has shifted its focus from the individual to the interaction between the individual and their environment. Although some use the term 'resilience' interchangeably with 'perseverance', 'mental toughness' and 'grit', they are not the same. Confusing resilience in this way can be problematic as this implies that resilience is done alone. This is particularly unhelpful when we are trying to encourage individuals to reach out and connect in response to adversity. This ideal also suggests that the focus therefore needs to be on the individual to 'put up with' a toxic environment rather than a focus on improving the environment and those relationships within it.

With this in mind, Michael Ungar describes resilience as follows: “In the context of exposure to significant adversity, resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways.” This definition shifts our understanding of resilience from an individual concept, popular with western-trained researchers and human services providers, to a more culturally embedded understanding of wellbeing. It makes explicit that resilience is more likely to occur when we provide the resources that make it more likely for every child, adolescent and adult to do well in ways that are meaningful to the individual, his or her family, and the community. In this sense, resilience is the result of both successful navigation to resources and negotiation for resources to be provided in meaningful ways.

So, as we can see, rather than a character trait, resilience is an ongoing process between the individual and their environment. It is through this process, we build our core beliefs, which we describe as I Have, I Am and I Can. These beliefs reflect our internal competences - the tools and resources which enable us to cope, survive and thrive through adversity. Reaching out and connecting is an essential part of the process of building resilience.

Why is resilience important? 

People who have happy and fulfilling lives have positive life skills that help them grow through life's inevitable challenges, rather than being damaged by them. Resilience is at the heart of wellbeing, success and long term mental health, as we navigate our way through the inevitable transitions and adversities of life. Organisations, families and communities which build the capacity for resilience are positive places to be, which enable individuals to to thrive and flourish. 

What is Resilience?

Resilience has gained a great deal of attention over the past few years as our mental health has come to the the forefront of our daily lives. Despite this, resilience is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.

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Call our UK & Ireland team now on

Our office hours are Monday to Friday from 09.30 to 16.00.