To help people becoming resilient, we shall first have a look at the meaning of resilience.
Let’s see the etymology of the word as it is found on the Merriam-Webster:
1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
After witnessing or being a victim of a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, war, flood, fire, the loss of a dear relative or friend, an ordeal may begin for the person involved. In the months following the event, people may find themselves silent, stunned, they review the same terrifying images and feel unable to return to a normal life. Yet, after a relatively short time, one year for example, more than 50% of these people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feel better. Some individuals possess amazing abilities to overcome difficulties and return to their original, or even mentally stronger, status. This process can be defined as “resilience“.
Why are there people who are more resilient than others?
In some cases resilience is partly innate. The concentration of cortisol (the stress hormone) drops faster. It is estimated that 85% of the population has genetic predispositions to defend themselves from traumas. Another determining factor is the healthy environment in which they grew up. Emotional security during early childhood provides better self-esteem and helps to better overcome difficulties.
In addition, the support of family and friends is also crucial. Some studies on the state of memory after traumatic events revealed that when survivors were left on their own, the chances of reacting with resilience were lower, while when they were well surrounded, they had a good chance of overcoming the situation they were facing.
So how could you help the victims?
You could reassure them, speak to them with affection, as you would do with a child. In fact, just like children, survivors can no longer manage their emotions, and sometimes they can’t even speak! By protecting them, the stress generated by the traumatic event will gradually be reduced.
A first level of psychological help can be given by establishing a relationship with the person involved by actively listening to them.
However, for an appropriate psychological support it is important to advise the victim to contact a professional, who will be able to give a proper psychological first aid (PFA) by assessing the needs of the person, establish priorities, and decide on the follow-up to help them regain their vision of the world and ultimately their life.
Have you ever witnessed a traumatic event or helped any victims of traumatic events? How did you react?
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