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“Resiliency is an inner capacity that when nurtured, facilitated, and supported by others empowers children, youth, and families to successfully meet life’s challenges with a sense of self-determination, mastery and hope (Resiliency Leadership Ohio, 2008).”

Resiliency is an ordinary developmental process that is available to all youth. Resiliency is not the result of special children with special qualities but instead arises from ordinary processes and conditions.

Resiliency develops over time and takes into account the interaction of: risk and protective factors; contextual conditions; and individual’s traits and abilities. In other words, the interaction of the person and context are important, and can be viewed from the Search Institute’s Framework of Developmental Assets which pulls many factors identified as contributing to healthy development—such as family dynamics, support from community adults, school effectiveness, peer influence, values development, and social skills—together into a comprehensive vision of what young people need to thrive. In general, the more assets a young person has, the greater the reduction of high-risk behaviors and the promotion of positive attitudes and behaviors.

Building Blocks of Resiliency

Basic needs & Support—“What I need”

  1. Validation and Valuing
    A resilience-oriented mental health system is affirming of youth and family with unconditional acceptance. Supportive, emotionally safe environments are created, where youth and families can share their vulnerabilities and weaknesses safely and without judgment. Validation is a shared experience in which each provider journeys to discover and appreciate the family’s culture, circumstances, and life realities. The youth and family are validated for their courage, efforts, and persistence, knowing that progress is sometimes very difficult, and that “hanging in there” is sometimes all that is possible at any given point in a family’s life. Youth with mental health disabilities and their families are doing the best they can, not only maintaining, but “surviving well.”
  2. Basic needs, safety, supports and services
    Children thrive in emotionally and physically safe families, communities and neighborhoods. Families and communities take an active role in the protection, monitoring, and comfort of every youth. Families are supported in their efforts to secure safe housing, and appropriate education for their children - through graduation. Services and supports address the complete mental health needs across developmental ages and stages and are delivered in the least restrictive, most dignified environment. Mental health care is affordable, available, and accessible, where no family has to give up custody, or experience extreme financial hardship to receive any level of mental health care.
  3. Sanctuary
    Youth and families need safe and calming people and places for refuge, respite, recovery, and rejuvenation. Both youth and parents need their own protected space where they can feel and be calm. Youth need multiple safe options for sanctuary in different contexts, including home, school, and the community. Designated and predictable breaks are important for coping with the ongoing challenges of mental illness.
  4. Justice (Rights, Voice, Respect, and Dignity)
    A resiliency-orientated mental health system stands with youth and families and fights stigma and stereotypes through comprehensive mental health education that transforms the community. All child serving systems make a commitment to provide safe and non-traumatizing care with all children and families, and above all else do no harm. A resiliency-oriented mental health system is sensitive to the culture, values, and situation of every person, treating each with dignity and respect regardless of the person’s life circumstances. Providers advocate for the rights of all youth and families and are proactive in facilitating and developing meaningful accommodations so that the youth can achieve success in all environments. Youth and families, of all cultures and life situations have a legitimate voice at all levels of policy, services, and supports. This voice is supported and elevated through community champions and resiliency ambassadors.  
    Mastery—“What I know and what I can do”
  5. Competencies (Skills, Abilities, Talents)
    All children, youth, and families have unique strengths, abilities, and talents that when nurtured can grow, develop, and flourish. With the right supports, encouragement, and active facilitation, youth with emotional or behavioral challenges can achieve their full potential. Each community commits to creating positive learning environments that enhance abilities and skills, and offer sufficient opportunities for expression of each youth’s unique talents.
  6. Courage, Confidence, and Self-Determination
    Maintaining mental health involves great personal courage and bravery to deal with life stressors and obstacles, especially for individuals with emotional/behavior challenges. The daily act of coping is itself a heroic act. Youth and families have the courage to stand their ground and say “I can” regardless of what others tell them is possible, and to face situations that appear insurmountable. Youth and families grow in confidence through each life experience, developing self-assurance and belief in their abilities not only to cope, but to thrive. Youth and families actively contribute to the direction of their lives and are supported in their journey toward self-determination.
  7. Self-Wisdom and Self-Acceptance
    Youth and families are experts in their own experiences and develop practical knowledge about coping with, and managing, behavioral and emotional challenges. Youth and families know what works best for them, under what circumstances, and by whom. They know the situations when they can handle a problem by themselves and the conditions when they need help. They also recognize that not knowing the answer or solution to a problem is OK. Youth cultivate self acceptance, recognizing they are doing the best they can given their current abilities, life experiences, and circumstances. Youth may have setbacks, but learn from each experience, always growing emotionally stronger and wiser. Youth learn to appreciate who they are becoming including their unique abilities, talents, and strengths.
    Connections—“How am I connected”
  8. Supportive connections
    Resiliency is nurtured by family and friends, facilitated through helping relationships (formal and informal), and supported and embraced by the community. Children, youth, and families thrive when they feel understood and connected to positive and supportive family members, adults, peers, institutions, and culture. Youth and families benefit from social support systems that are responsive to their needs and that offer tangible, emotional, educational, and advocacy supports. The community actively reaches out to develop positive mentoring relationships with every youth and family.
  9. Contribution & Participation
    Youth with emotional and behavioral challenges thrive when given opportunities for contribution, participation, and positive involvement. Active involvement and meaningful belonging in community activities and schools are fostered and supported. Youth’s viewpoints and opinions are valued and meaningful leadership roles are created for them.  

    Community service and helping opportunities are made available for all youth. Communities actively seek out youth as community partners. Communities believe that youth can and do make significant contributions.
  10. Expectations and accommodations that maximize success
    A resiliency-oriented mental health system promotes the expectation that resiliency is available to all youth. Reasonable and achievable expectations that maximize the functioning and potential of each youth are promoted. Youth with special needs succeed when they have flexible and accommodating environments with personal champions that support them in reaching their potential.
    Well-being— “Quality of life”
  11. Hope and Optimism
    Resiliency is an ordinary process that is available and expected for all youth. All children have the right to hope and success starting at birth and lasting a lifetime. Communities, providers, and families foster opportunities and possibilities so that youth with emotional challenges have hope for a positive future with a self-determined and fulfilled life. We believe that even the smallest victories are significant, sustaining our hope, and giving us the courage to persevere.
  12. Sense of meaning and Joy
    All children, youth, and families seek to find happiness, meaning, and joy that bring satisfaction and quality into their lives. For some this means having a strong faith connection. Having a sense of purpose and fun promotes wellness and resiliency, and gives us something to look forward to each day. Environments that foster creativity, playfulness, and humor, allow youth and families to experience lightheartedness and joy. In resiliency-oriented systems youth are supported in finding meaning and joy in their lives.

Youth & Family Consensus Statement on Resiliency and Children’s Mental Health. Copyright 2008 Resiliency Leadership Ohio & Ohio Department of Mental Health, All Rights Reserved.

“Insights on Resiliency: Utilizing Youth and Family-Based Evidence to Inform Policy and Practice”. (Power point presentation) Rick Shepler, Ph.D. Center for Innovative Practices:  Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Kent State University; Copyright 2006, 2009 Resiliency Leadership Ohio & Ohio Department of Mental Health, All Rights Reserved.

Resiliency Principles

In a resiliency-oriented mental health system, the following principles are embraced:
  • Resiliency is a belief and faith that all children, youth and families have strengths and are capable of overcoming challenges.
  • All children have the right to hope and success starting at birth and lasting a lifetime.
  • All communities and systems have a responsibility and make a commitment to nurture resiliency with all children.
  • Youth and families are experts in their experiences.
  • Youth and families have voice and choice in services and supports.
  • A resiliency-oriented mental health system is sensitive to culture, community and values of the individual youth and family.
  • Services and supports are individualized, flexibly delivered and tailored to meet the unique needs of the youth and family.
  • A resiliency-oriented mental health system is affirming of youth and family with unconditional acceptance.
  • In a resiliency-oriented mental health system, supports and services focus on promoting resiliency, while reducing risks and stabilizing symptoms.
  • A resiliency-oriented mental health system provides access to a complete continuum of care that addresses mental health promotion, education and intervention across developmental ages and stages.
  • A resiliency-oriented mental health system invests in our youth as our most valuable resources.
  • Efforts to implement a resiliency-oriented mental health system need to be embedded in a community structure that supports them and sustains their effects.

Source: Resiliency Principles of Care. Copyright 2006 Resiliency Leadership Ohio & Ohio Department of Mental Health, All Rights Reserved.

Additional Resources:

THE CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE PRACTICES (CIP) was created in 2000 as one of the original Coordinating Centers of Excellence funded by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.  CIP was created for the purpose of disseminating Evidence Based Practices (EBP) in the mental health system, specifically the dissemination of Multi-systemic Therapy (MST), a treatment for youth with serious anti-social behavior disorders. CIP is a key partner in the Youth and Family Resiliency Leadership Project, a collaborative leadership effort that consists of diverse stakeholders led by youth, young adults, and family members, who are supported by staff from the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH), the Center for Innovative Practices and the Ohio Federation for Children’s Mental Health.  

The main goal of the Resiliency Leadership initiative is to develop local systems capacity to foster resiliency at all levels of mental health care and education, including mental health promotion, prevention and intervention with the ultimate outcome of resilient individuals, families and communities. Utilizing Ohio’s Mental Health Transformation State Incentive Grant from SAMHSA (T-SIG) as a platform, the Resiliency Leadership initiative is developing strategies for dissemination, raising public awareness, and integrating resiliency into children’s mental health policies. 

THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH (ODMH) is the cabinet level department that funds, reviews and monitors community mental health programs through 50 county-level boards which then  act as local mental health authorities, contracting for services provided by hundreds of private agencies and the seven public psychiatric hospitals operated by ODMH. Resilience is one of several over-arching philosophies guiding the work of ODMH; as such, the Department seeks to support local mental health systems that foster resiliency at all levels of mental health care and education, including mental health promotion, prevention and intervention, with the ultimate outcome of resilient individuals, families and communities. Nurturing resiliency helps children, youth and families successfully meet life’s challenges.

Consistent with this principle, in January of 2005 ODMH empowered youth and families to take a lead role in the development and dissemination of a statewide mental health resiliency initiative that informs policy and practice across the developmental life stages from infancy to the transition to adulthood. In 2008, with additional support from Ohio’s Transformation State Incentive Grant (SAMHSA), the resiliency workgroup was transformed into Resiliency Leadership Ohio.

RESILIENCY LEADERSHIP OHIO is a youth-guided, family-driven initiative that is co-facilitated by the Center for Innovative Practices at the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence at Kent State University, and the Ohio Federation for Children’s Mental Health, with the support of the Ohio Department of Mental Health. Resiliency Leadership Ohio’s unique contribution to resiliency and children’s mental health can be found throughout our website. Please join us in nurturing, facilitating, and supporting resiliency in all youth. Click under “Resources” from their home page for informative resources on resiliency and children’s mental health, including those created by Resiliency Leadership Ohio (Copyright 2009, Ohio Department of Mental Health).

THE OHIO FEDERATION FOR CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH is a voluntary, non-profit organization that was founded by, is governed by, and is staffed by those who have encountered behavioral difficulties in their own lives as youth and/or in the lives of their children. The Ohio Federation provides support and advocacy for families, as well as education for families, agencies, systems, and elected and appointed officials.

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