Resilience, it seems to be the word of the moment for mental health awareness. The message seems to be that we need to build resilience, in us, in our kids and in those around us. Is resilience the right word for helping people be mentally well though?What exactly is resilience? Dictionary.com defines it as: ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. Sounds pretty positive to me, however I wonder if the unwritten feeling (and maybe this is just me) behind those words, that to be resilient you need to bounce back every time from illness.
On Q&A, Josh Thomas spoke a little about resilience and I think his thoughts about it resonated the most with me. He said that maybe we need to stop telling people that they need have resilience when it comes to life’s struggles. That it is this line of thought that keeps believing that they must have a ‘stiff upper lip’ rather than admitted that they need help.
One of the most popular myths around mental illness, especially depression and anxiety, is that the person is weak, and if they just got on with life then everything would be OK. Now this probably isn’t the message of resilience but the overwhelming feeling is that to have resilience means that you are strong, so by default the opposite is to be weak.
I worry then that by teaching our children resilience, we are without meaning to, teaching them that being weak, is something that is wrong. I don’t think that falling in a heap and expecting them to pick up the pieces is helpful either, but we do need to find that middle ground. We need to show them that resilience isn’t the be all of life. That showing your emotions and talking about your problems are OK.
I don’t think that resilience is the right word for encouraging people to live a mentally healthy life. I believe that we need a word that encourages people to be OK with themselves when they are struggling. I’m not sure what that word is, but I don’t think resilience quite fits the bill anymore.
Do you think resilience is something that should be promoted alongside being mentally healthy? What word do you think should replace it?