Suicide prevention is about reducing risk factors: debilitating mental illness, isolation, access to lethal means, substance abuse, etc. But we can’t stop there. Suicide prevention is also about mental health promotion. Colleges and universities will function best when we have mentally resilient people. In other words we need to find ways to boost psychological hardiness in a world that seems increasingly confusing and isolating.
Commitment (vs. alienation): the ability to feel deeply involved
in activities of life
Control (vs. powerlessness): belief you can control or influence
events of your experience
Challenge (vs. threat): anticipation of change as an exciting
challenge to further development.
Definition of resiliency:
re•sil•ien•cy (rĭ-zĭl’yən-sē): the ability to recover from (or to resist being affected by) some shock, insult, or disturbance or a self-righting tendency.
Resiliency is evident when there are: 1) positive performance regardless of high-risk status, 2) constant competence under stress, and 3) recovery from trauma.
Student Life offices have often been forerunners in developing community and offering programs on personal development. By focusing on two major strategies, campuses can optimize resiliency:
- Increase positive coping strategies. Our students are reporting increasing amounts of stress every year and need tools to handle time management, stress management and conflict.
- Increase social integration. Social integration research tells us that Americans are losing confidants at an alarming rate. That is, on average people have fewer close relationships they can turn to when they have a problem. In the 1980s most people had at least three confidants; now the model number is one. Campuses looking to bolster resiliency might consider how to better foster a sense of belonging and reduce isolation, especially in the high tech age when the number of friends you have on Facebook counts more than how close you are to each of them.
- Masten, A.S., Best, K.M., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 425-444.