Why are mental health practitioners pushing for resilience building? | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Why are mental health practitioners pushing for resilience building?

ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai
Oct 25, 2021 12:04 AM IST

More and more mental health practitioners have started emphasising the importance of resilience building in recent years. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed, mental health resilience helps each individual to cope and bounce back

This July, when a 31-year-old teacher from Kolkata lost her husband to Covid-19, it was not just grief that she had to dabble with. A few days before her husband tested positive, she had walked out on him due to incidents of physical abuse. When he landed in the isolation ward, they got talking again and he promised to be good to her and make their marriage work. But two weeks later, he succumbed to the infection, driving her into a pile of guilt. The mother of two daughters aged four and seven turned to a psychologist who let her vent, cry, and slowly bring back her self-esteem. A big part of her therapy involved building resilience.

The term resilience is not new. In a recent mental health event, practitioners spoke of resilience and how it plays a crucial role when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The term resilience is not new. In a recent mental health event, practitioners spoke of resilience and how it plays a crucial role when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“Grief and guilt can be a devastating combination,” said Alisha Lalljee, a Bandra-based counselling psychologist who has been virtually counselling the Kolkata woman. “In her case, close relatives blamed her for not being there for her husband. She was made guilty for walking out on him. Despite being a confident woman, it was the societal pressure that kept pulling her down. Building resilience helps to cope in such circumstances,” she said.

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The term resilience is not new. In a recent mental health event, Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Avinash DeSousa spoke of resilience and how it plays a crucial role when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. More and more mental health practitioners have started emphasising its importance in recent years. As the world faces the worst shocks like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed, its resilience that helps each individual to cope, bounce back and get back on the feet to face the next challenge.

“Self-love or self-compassion is a crucial aspect to being more resilient,” said Lalljee, who included daily journaling in the Kolkata woman’s therapy along with cognitive behavioural therapy and rational emotive behavioural therapy. “Acceptance of the situation, learning to identify the rational and irrational thoughts and beliefs, believing that you have a superpower and that you have been through worse are some mechanisms that help in coping,” she said.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressers.” The association lists a variety of resilience-building strategies including prioritising relationships, taking care of own body, practising mindfulness, being proactive, looking for opportunities for self-discovery among others.

“Put simply, it’s your ability to bounce back,” said DeSousa. “The good part is that resilience is something that can be taught formally to children or older adults, and it can even be tailor-made for the disaster or trauma. It’s like training them in the right or wrong ways to react for a certain shock,” he said.

According to DeSousa, biological factors also play a role in one’s resilience. “How the family copes, the situations one has been brought up in all contribute to resilience building or not,” he said.

Thus, when two people suffer from the same kind of trauma, one may cope better and faster than the other. A 2019 review in Lancet Psychiatry stated that at the level of a child’s community, high social support will change psychosocial and behavioural outcomes. “It is important to note that studies like this review tend to show that single resilience factors—such as paternal communication or maternal support—do not contribute to resilience on their own but are instead related to the totality of the family experience. Single factors together create an environment of social cohesion and a positive family climate, which are associated with resilience,” the review said further adding that resilience is not solely a quality within individuals; it grows from access to and use of the resources needed to support mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Samir Dalwai, a developmental and behavioural paediatrician said that resilience-building exercises must be included compulsorily at the school level. “Unfortunately, our systems are such that we expect a lot from our children but offer little to build on their strengths. Resilience building involves validating the child’s feelings, motivating them, helping them build the skills that they lack and gradually helping them rise above,” he said. “When we don’t build such strengths, most land up adapting bad coping mechanisms when they face any kind of stressors,” he said.

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