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Our purpose

Developing resiliency in children is considered one of the key attributes for coping successfully with life circumstances and events and hence for mental health.

The study of resilience is receiving increased attention, as illustrated by 85% of publications on the theme being published during the past decade (Hjemdal, 2007). Several recent reports (Institute of Medicine, 2000; New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003) have noted that there is a 20 year gap between knowledge generated from best clinical research and the use of that knowledge in the health and mental health care sectors.

The study of resiliency and its application continues to grow. Resiliency is explored for its benefits to a wide range of children in particular circumstances such as children in care; children who experience or who witness violence; children with a serious illness; children with a parent in prison; children of refugees; children living with a parent with mental illness, children where a family member has an illness or disability, and resilient students.

A wide variety of programs, aiming to build resilience, are applied in schools across Australia (MindMatters; Aussie Optimism; Program Achieve; Heart Masters; Friends; Straight Talk; Resilient Kids Primary Program); for pre-school children (Triple P; PALS); for parents (Triple P, PALS; PET; Healthy Start) and for carers such as grandparents and child care centres. Many programs are multilayered seeking to engage, for example, with parents (MindMatters) and with communities (Best Start).

The development of programs for social and emotional learning, primarily targeting schools (Mind Matters; KidsMatter), is one of the key elements for building resilience. Such approaches or aspects of these approaches are increasingly being adopted by a variety of other community agencies and government agencies. These programs are built on developing knowledge of risk and protective factors and represent a type of “generic” approach (Durlak, 1998) to preventing not only mental ill-health but also in the hope of tackling a variety of other social concerns such as drug taking, teen pregnancies, physical abuse, poor physical health and school failure (which in turn may contribute to mental ill-health).

Current research activity for mental health is interested in two broad outcomes (a) knowledge of specific pathways leading to particular mental illnesses and an understanding of which factors are modifiable and (b) knowledge of which protective factors should be applied to children in particular circumstances to prevent mental illness. Bringing this knowledge into current practice is the key purpose of this project and more specifically with a clear focus on preventing mental illness. All social institutions need sound evidence for designing any programs and this guide will provide the most up to date evidence for practice.

Despite the many applications of current resiliency theory and practice, there remain some central issues for the further development of the successful application of resiliency to practice to prevent mental illness.

  • The evolving nature for operationalising resiliency
  • The continued development of a suitable and practical measure of resilience
  • Knowledge and awareness of the essential elements of any program (program design) for mental health
  • Knowledge and awareness of application issues of mental health programs within a variety of settings (organisational practices and capacity)
  • Poor knowledge of the barriers and facilitators for mental health program efficacy.
  • The impact on parents, services and carers who must shop extensively and critically to access the multiplicity of providers and the patchiness of their location
  • The capacity for related health and wellbeing programs to include resiliency features is little explored.