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Well? Issue 10: Spring/Summer 2007


Promoting Resilience - Why it matters


A person who is resilient is likely to

  • Recognise and manage their own feelings and understand the feelings of others
  • Have a sense of independence and self-worth
  • Form and maintain positive, mutually respectful relationships with others
  • Be able to solve problems and make informed decisions
  • Have a sense of purpose and goals for the future

Resilience is commonly described as a person's capacity to cope with changes and challenges and to 'bounce back' during difficult times.

Children and young people who are resilient are better equipped to resist stress and adversity, to cope with change and uncertainty, and to recover faster and more completely from traumatic events or episodes.

However, research over the last 25 years has shown that today's young people are much less resilient than previous generations. They also have more emotional and behavioural problems, and this is the case for males and females, all social classes and all family types.

Work is underway to reverse this trend and the Scottish Health Promoting Schools Unit ( SHPSU) is leading a drive to increase children and young people's resilience.

Here we showcase some of that work.


image of Resilience Poster

Most teachers agree that posters are a good resource to help them to explain complicated concepts like resilience to children and young people. This poster, produced by the Scottish Health Promoting Schools Unit, has been distributed to all schools in Scotland and describes the key aims of the Promoting Resilience project. This work has been well received by teachers and pupils in Scotland and has been recognised and adopted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education.

"Emphasising the rounded development of young people in terms of their academic, physical, social and emotional development supports what schools are trying to achieve through A Curriculum for Excellence (see page 14). Short, pointed and attractive materials such as the poster on resilience from the SHPSU help. This particular poster shows the importance of the integrated nature of developing young minds, and provides a structure for children to help them think through the issues for themselves."

Frank Crawford
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education


Involving young people is a key factorin the Promoting Resilience project. Lauren East, an S5 pupil at Denny High School moved from Hull to Denny two years ago, a transition which she found extremely traumatic. Lauren was chosen to be on the interview panel, along with Lee Miller of YoungMinds and Graeme King, principal educational psychologist for Falkirk Council, to select the best person to manage the Promoting Resilience project.

"When my dad told my brother and me he'd got a job in Scotland and we were moving there, we thought he was the worst father that ever lived!" recalls Lauren. "Not only would we be moving house, but moving schools and leaving all our friends behind. I was dreading it. On my first day at Denny High School I was shaking and spent the first day in a daze. Eventually some girls started speaking to me and I began to make friends.

"I was never a confident person, but I feel much more confident now having gone through that experience. In fact, I'm really glad I have, as I now feel I'm much better equipped to cope with other transitions and can reassure other people too.

"It was interesting being on the Promoting Resilience interview panel. Having been through that transition I was able to ask some quite searching questions. We all agreed that Fiona [Ogg] was the best person for the job, and know she will do some great work on resilience in schools."

Many other schools in Scotland are actively involved in mental health promotion as part of the Health Promoting Schools initiative, including:

  • Craigie High School in Dundee (a Silver Health Promoting School Award Holder) runs peer mediation and conflict programmes, trains S6 pupils as counsellors/supporters and offers a chill-out programme for pupils leading up to exam time.
  • Millburn Academy in Inverness runs AWARE, a project which involves mental health training for all school staff, staff health and well-being events and mental health promotion projects delivered by schools.

For more information on Health Promoting Schools go to: www.healthpromotingschools.co.uk


A pilot project to boost children's resilience has recently begun in Denny High School and its eight feeder schools in the Falkirk area. The two year project is run by children's mental health charity, YoungMinds, working in partnership with Falkirk Council.

"The key theme of the project is 'transition' and the ability to work through life changes, especially the transition from primary to secondary school, or of moving school which often triggers emotional problems in children", says Lee Miller YoungMinds' training and consultancy officer. "The aim is to provide support to children, their parents, school staff and whole school settings to prevent problems happening, as well as supporting children who currently have difficulties."

The project is led by emotional well-being specialist Fiona Ogg who began work in March. The work will follow P6 pupils in the Denny High feeder schools through their final year in primary school, and as they make the transition into secondary school. The work will take place with staff and parents/carers, as well as the whole school system. The project will be evaluated after two years when it is hoped to be rolled out to other areas in Scotland.


The Promoting Resilience project is partly funded by HeadsUpScotland and the Scottish Executive Education Department. The Scottish Executive has made a commitment to ensure that all schools become health-promoting schools by the end of 2007.



image of Talking Of Love On the Edge of A Precipice by Boris Cyrulnik

Can trauma be overcome by resilience? Dr Alison Blair reviews Talking Of Love On the Edge of A Precipice by Boris Cyrulnik (Allen Lane, 2007)

This powerful and engaging book weaves stories of individuals with different scientific research and theory to provide the reader with a coherent and uplifting account of the effects of trauma being overcome by resilience. Cyrulnik states "Were it not for our memories and our hopes we would be living in a world in which there was no reason". He describes how hope can live in the most terrible of circumstances and by holding on to humanity and retaining the capacity to love, survivors can release the chains that bind, allowing their trauma to become a memory rather than a state of being. He describes how trauma is followed by a period of numbness which at the time is protective to the individual but which must recede to allow life to have meaning and emotion once more.

The emphasis throughout the book on the role that society plays is enlightening. He comments on the paradox that as society increases in wealth and organisation we are less invested in our community and family structures which make us all the more vulnerable when things go wrong.

The most important message in this book is that love sustains the will to live and gives us the power to change throughout our life span. Beyond physical necessities for life, most of all a child needs love, and if this love is consistent and secure this will be with the child no matter what else prevails. The universal messages of this book mean that it is not just for those who work in, or are affected by mental health issues. It is a book that requires to be read more than once, and one that you may wish to give to many people for many different reasons.

Dr Alison Blair is a consultant psychiatrist with Esteem Glasgow, the service which supports young people with psychosis.


The City of Edinburgh Council has secured a Big Lottery Fund grant to promote the emotional health and well-being of children, young people and the adults that work and care for them. The grant will be used to support work already underway around Creating Confident Kids, the resource pack which has been developed by, and for, primary school teachers to help embed concepts of emotional literacy.

Councillor Andrew Burns, executive member for children and families, The City of Edinburgh Council, said: "This grant is great news. It will enable us to further develop and promote our emotional well-being work including personal and professional development for staff, out-of-school hours activities for children, personal development work with parents/carers and community-based and voluntary sector projects. The grant will also be used to comprehensively evaluate work, as well as hosting an annual emotional well-being conference to share achievements and promote the latest research in this area."

Topics that are likely to be covered include attachment, resilience, optimism, appreciative enquiry, emotional literacy and brain development.

Patricia Santelices


Around 200 undergraduate and 70 postgraduate students at Napier University in Edinburgh are the first to take part in the Confident Futures initiative, a pilot project which aims to develop self-belief and self-esteem in graduates.

Developed in conjunction with the Glasgow-based Centre for Confidence and Well-Being, the initiative will help students examine their personalities and ways of thinking, to develop positive attitudes and approaches to problems and increase belief in their abilities.

"Confidence is seen as a by-product of studying at university, rather than a quality we should be teaching," said Professor Joan Stringer, principal and vice-chancellor of Napier University. "Confident Futures aims to change that and to help improve the confidence of society generally."




Scotland is currently pursuing its biggest education reform programme for a generation under the Scottish Executive's Ambitious, Excellent Schools agenda (launched in November 2004).

Central to this reform agenda is A Curriculum for Excellence, a programme of work which aims to provide more professional freedom for teachers, greater choice and opportunities for pupils, and a single coherent curriculum for all young people from three to 18 to help them maximise their potential.

Overall health and well-being is an important focus within A Curriculum for Excellence. The most important goal of this part of the programme is to support children and young people in gaining the knowledge and skills to help them live fulfilling and healthy lives.

"The main purpose of education for health and well-being is to enable children and young people to develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, abilities and attitudes necessary for their physical, emotional and social well-being now, and in their future lives," said a spokesperson for A Curriculum for Excellence.

"This is not a nationally prescribed curriculum, but rather a framework of broad guidance within which teachers will have flexibility to structure activities to suit their school's core personal and social education programmes.

The guidance will emphasise the need to draw on appropriate professional expertise, to involve children in the programme planning and to ensure plenty of parental consultation when sensitive health issues are addressed."



photo of Choices For LifeChoices For Life goes from strength to strength with a national roll-out across Scotland

Choices For Life, the Strathclyde Police initiative for teachers and pupils established in 1999, has become so popular that it is soon to be rolled out nationally across Scotland.

So, what is Choices For Life? It's a series of shows aimed specifically at P7 pupils (aged 10-11 years) that cover the themes of drugs, alcohol, smoking, physical and mental health education. The aim is to encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices, at a period when they will become more aware of, and potentially be exposed to, these issues. The events also focus on helping them to resist negative peer pressure at a time when they are making the transition from primary to secondary education. The emphasis is on increasing knowledge and understanding to enable children to make their own informed decisions, rather than feeling pressured or bullied as to what they should think or do. In other words they have choices - Choices For Life.

Each performance consists of a two-hour, multi-media themed show, presented by local radio DJs in a slick and fast-moving format with messages delivered by people the audience can relate to in a manner they can enjoy. Using drama, videos and a Family Fortunes-style quiz, interspersed with music from live up-and-coming bands, many of the children will be improving knowledge, raising their self-esteem and learning decision-making skills while having fun.

The events are organised by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency in partnership with all eight Scottish Police forces. Funding is provided from the Scottish Executive and other sponsors, including Glasgow Communities Ltd. Children from all 32 local authorities will be represented.

This year the 'Just Like Me' campaign, challenging stigma around mental ill health, aimed at children and young people will be featured at all the shows. The current campaign features Cloud Boy and Cloud Girl and their experience of self-harm and bullying and the way their peers react.

Twelve shows will take place in May and June 2007 at six venues across Scotland, from Orkney and the Western Isles to Glasgow.



photo of Stephen Hendry

Scotland's World Champion snooker player Stephen Hendry has pledged to support the Choices For Life initiative