Resilience, or how to “take a licking and keep on ticking”

resilienceThe days that we only focus on pathology after trauma are long gone. In the past two decades, the literature that adopts a ‘well being’ rather than a ‘deficit’ model has grown substantially. In 1990, the field had published 4 English papers on resilience. Today, there are 858.1

But what is resilience? And how do we become more resilient? The topic is not without controversy. In a panel session at the ISTSS conference, profs Rachel Yehuda, George Bonanno, Ann Masten, and Catherine Panter-Brick gave their views. Here is what I took home:

What is resilience? Continue reading

Epidemiology: A valuable way to study individual differences in risk and resiliency?

This guest post is by Odilia Laceulle. Odilia is finishing her PhD project at the Interdisciplinary Center for Psychiatric Epidemiology (UMC Groningen, with Prof. Ormel). She focuses on the influence of stressful life events on temperament and stress-reactivity during adolescence using data from the large cohort study TRAILS (TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lifes Survey).

It is no surprise that many children and adolescents we see in clinical practice need help after being exposed to severe stress. However, not all children who are exposed to stress seek clinical help; some are able to cope with severe stress without therapy. But what defines the impact of severe stressors and who can cope with traumatic events and who cannot? And are all children at equal risk of getting exposed to these events, or can we distinguish factors that predict the likelihood of becoming a victim?  Continue reading

Supporting children in the classroom after a traumatic event

Dutch Toolkit Child en Trauma

Teachers in primary schools feel rather uncertain about their role and skills when it comes to trauma and traumatic stress (see the Dutch news). They don’t get much training about child mental health in pre-teacher education, even though psychological well-being is a requirement for children’s learning. Now I do certainly not want to argue that teachers should learn to be therapists, but I think that they can play an important role in signaling chronic traumatic stress symptoms and referring children and parents to specialists.

To build teachers’ confidence, we made a Toolkit Child and Trauma. It consists of a website and a booklet about traumatic exposure, posttraumatic stress, classroom skills, specialized organizations, and self care. We made the toolkit in collaboration with teachers, in order to really tune in to their needs and interests. The main idea of the toolkit is that children are resilient: most of them will overcome difficulties with the support of their social environment.

The tips we elaborated on for assisting a child after a traumatic event: Continue reading