Is resilience a helpful model for recovery?

I was recently introduced to the concept of promoting resilience-building to help improve the lives of people with mental illness.

I think resilience is a great model for promoting recovery:

  • It’s positive – it focuses on how a person can cope better with life’s difficulties, rather than what is wrong with that person that is making it hard for them to cope.

  • It’s inclusive – it applies to all kinds of mental illness and trauma as well as your average Joe. It demonstrates mental health as being part of a spectrum rather than ‘us’ and ‘them’.

  • It’s practical – it’s clear in how certain skills will help you to cope better, giving you certain steps to undertake rather than abstract theories or analysis.

However –

There is a danger of using the concept to put too much responsibility on the person who may be severely mentally ill or have gone through terrible trauma. The danger being that the person is judged for not being ‘resilient’ enough. Like the old ‘you just need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ which many people suffering from mental illness (depression in particular) have been unfortunate enough to hear. Spoiler: it doesn’t help.

Overall resilience is a great and helpful concept to promote recovery, but use with caution.