The NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series: Diagnosing Resilience: A Multisystemic Model for Positive Development in Stressed Environments
NIMH Division of Extramural Affairs
On January 14, 2021, Michael Ungar, Ph.D., founder and director of the Resilience Research Centre and Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, was the guest speaker in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director’s Innovation Speaker Series, which focuses on innovation, invention, and scientific discovery.
Using examples from his research and clinical practice, Dr. Ungar explored the nature of young people’s patterns of resilience in contexts where children and adolescents are affected by social marginalization, migration, violence, and mental disorder. His work is demonstrating that resilience can be assessed with sensitivity to culture and context, identifying factors that are most likely to have the greatest impact on behavioral outcomes at different levels of risk exposure. Dr. Ungar’s program of research provides support for an ecological, culturally sensitive interpretation of what resilience means to young people who experience extreme forms of adversity.
In this lecture, Dr. Ungar showed that resilience results from both individual abilities to overcome adversity and the capacity of social and physical ecologies, including mental health care providers, to help young people navigate and negotiate their way to the resources they need to build and sustain well-being. Finally, aspects of hidden resilience (maladaptive coping) will be discussed as reasonable ways young people protect themselves from risk when growing up in challenging contexts.
Dr. Ungar is the former chair of the Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, executive board member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and a family therapist who continues to work with mental health services for individuals and families at risk. His international series of studies spans six continents and has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between individuals and their social, institutional, built, and natural environments, including health and social services.
NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thinking. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their initial area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.
NIMH will provide sign language interpreters. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations to participate in this program should contact the Federal Relay at 1-800-877-8339. Submit general questions to the NIMH Director’s Innovation Speaker Series mailbox.