Resilience is often described as a personal attribute that may allow one to remain relatively unchanged by a traumatic event (Bensimon, 2012). A resilient individual typically maintains relatively stable levels of psychological and physical functioning during and after the traumatic event. Resilience has also been described as an “outcome pattern” following a traumatic event that is “characterized by a stable trajectory of healthy psychological and physical functioning” (Bonanno et al., 2011). In general, it needs to be noted that research on resilience in relation to trauma and war is relatively recent and there are not agreed upon definitions of resilience.
In general, people who are able to weather traumatic events without developing serious symptoms of PTSD are described as “resilient.” They exhibit a hardiness in the face of difficult situations.
Bensimon’s (2012) three definitions of resilience provide a framework for thinking about Service members and their families in regards to resilience:
1. Recovery or adaptation after trauma when one returns to their pre-trauma state. The words “bouncing back” or “bouncing forward” after adversity describe this kind of resilience. One may show some minor symptoms of PTSD but the symptoms do not surpass normal levels. As noted above, even minor symptoms may require therapeutic attention.
2. Resistance to developing destructive behavioral patterns due to the trauma. One resists changes caused by the traumatic event and maintains their psychological balance as they adjust to it. (Caution: this does not mean that PTSD is preventable per se and that those who develop it are flawed. It is meant to show that some personality types are better situated to resist trauma.)
3. Reconfiguration or using cognitive processing to rebound and change. This overlaps with Post Traumatic Growth (more below).
Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area.
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in hundreds of neighbourhoods across every province, CMHA provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.