Resiliency refers to an individual’s ability to overcome adversity by relying on both one’s internal and external resources. We are learning that resiliency isn’t a quality someone is born with, but rather a quality that can be fostered. We are also learning that one of the best ways to help prevent suicide is to help foster resiliency in individuals, communities, and families.
Strategies to increase resiliency:
1. Normalise thoughts and feelings:
Talking about how normal suicidal thoughts are, helps individuals feel less different, less “crazy”, and can challenge their perception of themselves as weak or unstable. Talking openly about suicide helps decrease the stigma the person may be feeling. It can not only help them feel stronger individually but often increases their ability to see themselves as a support and advocate for others who are having similar struggles.
2. Learn to ride the wave of emotion:
The key is learning strategies to manage your emotions – to “ride the wave”. Explore distraction techniques. These might include going for a run, drawing, yoga, or using the 15-minute rule (the 15-minute rule – after 15 minutes of distraction check-in to see if suicidal ideation persists). If it continues, distract yourself for another 15 minutes. Repeat the process until ideation subsides. Learn distress tolerance skills that identify emotions, grounding exercises to engage your senses and mindfulness activities to bring yourself into the present moment.
3. Explore your reasons for living:
Conduct an in-depth assessment of potentially protective factors in your life. Include any positive relationships and support, interests, skills and areas of success, cultural and religious beliefs and values, future hopes and goals, and a sense of belonging and connection. Doing gratitude making activities on a daily basis helps to increase positive affect.
4. Learn new skills:
Individuals who are resilient tend to have strong communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. Most individuals who lack this skill have the potential to learn them if given the opportunity. Suicide tends to be about escaping pain rather than about dying. Individuals who express suicidal thoughts often can’t see any way out, because they don’t know how to express their needs, they can’t figure out how to change their situation, or they don’t know how to improve or mend their relationships. A large part of support must be focused on addressing areas where individuals are stuck – helping them believe that there is a way out.
5. Identify a support system:
Identify a list of people that you trust and can rely on for support in times of distress. Having an environment of support greatly determines how efficiently an individual can deal with his stressors.
Developing a robust internal processing system is crucial for handling difficult situations/emotions and phases of life. Resilience is the key that we all must hold onto. The journey of life is long, unexpected and full of twists and turns. While we may be equipped to handle most of it, in times where we feel overwhelmed, asking for help should always be an option.