Revolution in resilience – the key to meeting challenges from mental health and adversity

When individuals have challenges that seem insurmountable, the answer may lie in communities’ building of an often ignored factor called ‘resilience’.

Those who recognise resilience as the fundamental tool for young people’s progress through adversity came together at the International Resilience Revolution Conference 2022 in Blackpool. They came to a town where the revolution is beginning: town-wide interventions based on the Academic Resilience Approach and Resilient Therapy developed by Professor Angie Hart, members of the University of Brighton’s Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, and community partners.

It is in Blackpool where Headstart funding has allowed the centre’s ambitions to flourish. Young people here are beating the odds that are against them and tackling challenges that include mental and physical health, domestic and school troubles, and potential barriers that societies put in their way. Through resilient measures, taken collectively, they are able to “beat the odds for individuals and change the odds” for the wider community. At the conference in March, young people and parents/carers came together with academics, funders, practitioners, artists and other community members to consider the ways the Blackpool-inspired revolution can be the first step towards a national change in the ways adversity is approached.

Professor Angie Hart and her team had lofty aims. They wanted to provide a unique and energetic learning space, one which would challenge traditional, individualistic concepts of resilience and instead focus on approaches that tackle inequalities and apply systems thinking. What they and the other participants developed was a study in co-production, from planning to delivery, bringing together young people, parents/carers, experts by experience and those who face additional barriers to participation. At the conference local young people were front and centre with displays of poster presentations from all ten of Blackpool’s Resilience Revolution Beacon Schools, and many inspiring young leaders took to the stage to share their work.

Recognising resilience with an activist twist came through the Blackpool Youth Climate Group co-producing solutions in Blackpool.. They introduced their work undertaken as part of University of Brighton student Viktoria Erlacher’s South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership PhD on mental health and climate change. Cultural and cross-cultural aspects of resilience were discussed by the HeadStart Newham Youth Panel as part of the University of Brighton led Nothing About Us Without Us Project funded by the Medical Research Council. There were stories of resilience of children living in homeless B&Bs by Samantha Harper from the Shared Health Foundation, examples of how to create resilience-friendly classrooms for newly immigrated and, Story-led Resilience: Arts as a Tool for Social Change by Blackpool Grand Theatre’s Young Resilient Storytellers, the later based again on Hart and collaborators’ Resilient Therapy.

Award winning cartoonist Harry Venning spent some time capturing the essence of the Resilience Revolution in his famous doodles and delivered several workshops with some of the young people in attendance.

In his keynote, Professor Isaac Prilleltensky from the University of Miami said:

There is an urgent need to understand and foster the collective good to foster resilience in our communities. In the absence of a coherent framework for the common good, it will be extremely difficult to control pandemics, address climate change, promote peace, reduce poverty, tackle discrimination, eliminate injustice, achieve equality, and become resilient communities.

While frameworks for personal well-being and resilience abound in psychology, conceptualizations of collective well-being and resilience are scarce. Our search for psychosocial foundations of the common good resulted in the identification of three pillars: wellness, fairness, and worthiness. [These are] … used to formulate a culture for the common good in which we balance the right with the responsibility to feel valued and add value, to self and others, in order to promote not just wellness but also fairness.

Director of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, Professor Angie Hart, summed up the benefits of the conference in the context of the Headstart Resilience Revolution and the increasing impact of hers and colleagues’ work in Resilient Therapy:

We are already beginning to see benefits from all the toil and trouble involved in hosting such a complex conference. Closer relationships have been forged with established research partners especially for those of us who were lucky enough to meet up face to face in Blackpool. Many of us now have a much deeper understanding of what other people are doing and feel we can get stuck in with new research partnerships with a spring in our steps and more common ground. We were thrilled to be able to share some of our exciting co-produced work in Blackpool and have already heard that others are planning to put some of our ideas into action, most notably expanding their own co-production efforts.

Download the ReMiT: Resilient Minds – Mental health toolkit for young people and toolkit for parents and carers

Find out more about the work of our Centre of Resilience for Social Justice.

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