Building Resilience

Life happens and all of us will experience difficult times or situations in our lives that may negatively affect our mental health. In order to be ready when a tough situation arises, we need to build up our resiliency.

What is resiliency? Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from tough situations. Despite challenging or stressful experiences, resilient individuals have developed skills to adapt and move forward. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. Rather, it is built through the combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill building, and positive experiences.

Protective factors, such as positive relationships, increase mental well-being, while risk factors, such as toxic stress decrease mental well-being. The more protective factors that we have in our life, the stronger our resiliency, and the less risk factors affect our mental health.

There are a variety of factors within the mental health continuum.

Protective factors (dots on the umbrella): increase mental well-being.

Risk factors (rain drops): decrease mental well-being. All of these factors are key topics within mental health.

Toxic stress: Positive childhood experiences, environments and relationships help build strong brain architecture. Experiencing positive stress is an important part of healthy development. All of us must develop strategies to cope effectively with normal levels of stress. Speaking in front of the class, taking exams, going for a job interview or making new friends provide growth opportunities for developing resiliency skills. However, when the body’s stress response system remains activated at high levels for a long period of time, toxic stress results.

Trauma: When the body’s systems become overwhelmed and are unable to cope with an adverse or extremely challenging experience (toxic stress), it results in trauma. Fortunately, with supportive relationships and caring adults the impact can be prevented, reduced or reversed.

Child abuse: Abuse, also called maltreatment, is the act of emotionally, sexually or deliberately hurting a child physically. It includes depriving a child of affection and acceptance, neglecting to meet their day-to-day needs or endangering them in any way. Abuse also includes sexual exploitation and exposing a child to sexual contact, activity or behavior. You should tell an adult who you trust if you are experiencing or have experienced abuse.

Stigma: Stigma is the result of negative and prejudicial attitudes and behaviours that are expressed by people to those living with a mental health issue or a mental illness. Stigma is destructive. It leaves a mark of shame that makes people feel different and socially excluded, and it makes getting help extremely hard for those who need it. Among youth, the stigma often associated with mental health issues or mental illnesses can lead to teasing and bullying, and in extreme cases, catastrophic outcomes including suicide.

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